Who invented the first Number Theory?

Carl Friedrich Gauss, German Mathematician, Astronomer and Physicist.

Brief biography of Carl Friedrich Gauss, one of the greatest and most influential mathematicians in history. He made advances in number theory.

German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss was a child prodigy. He contributed to the study of electricity and magnetism and made significant advances in mathematics, in number theory and theory of series. The unit of magnetic flux ‘Gauss’ is named after him.

Early Life of Carl Friedrich Gauss

Carl Friedrich Johann Gauss (1777-1855), born in Brunswick to poor parents, came to the notice of the Duke of Brunswick, who paid for his education at the Collegium Carolinum, Brunswick, and the University of Göttingen, a child prodigy. A notebook he kept in Latin as a youth discovered in 1898 showed that, from the age of 15, he had conjectured and proved many remarkable results, including the prime number theorem.

Gauss as a Young Scientist

Aged 19, he announced he found a ruler and compass construction for the 17-sided polygon, and at the age of 24, he published his Disquisitiones arithmeticae, containing new advances in number theory. The same year, he was the first to rediscover the asteroid Ceres found by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1800 but since lost behind the Sun.

Director of Göttingen Observatory and Hanover Geodetic Survey

In 1807, Gauss became director of Göttingen Observatory, while studying celestial mechanics (he published a treatise), and statistics, where he was the first to use the method of least squares.

From 1818 to 1825, he directed the geodetic survey of Hanover. The many routine calculations led to his study of the theory of errors of observation. He also worked on pure mathematics, including differential equations, hypergeometric function, curvature of surfaces, four different proofs of the fundamental theorem of algebra, six of quadratic reciprocity, and many more relating to number theory.

Non-Euclidean Geometry

Although Euclid’s Theory has been around for thousands of years, like other mathematicians, Gauss realized the limitations of Euclidian geometry (dealing with flat surfaces) and he developed a new geometry for curved and multi-dimensional surfaces. This means properties of geometrics in which the surface of the earth has parallel lines that can cross one another, for example, the lines of latitude are parallel at the equator and cross at the poles.

Gauss didn’t publish many of his work and only became known after his death although his work translated to mean ‘non-Euclidean geometry.’ Some of his achievements in this area were rediscovered by the Hungarian Janos Bolyai and the Russian Nikolai Lobachevsky, working independently from each other in the 1820s.

Other Mathematical Theories Discoveries

In physics, Gauss studied the Earth’s magnetism and developed the magnetometer in conjunction with Wilhelm Eduard Weber, and gave a mathematical theory of the optical systems of lenses. He was an acquaintance of Eugenics pioneer, Sir Francis Galton. Unpublished manuscripts after Gauss’s death show he had made many other discoveries, including the theory of elliptic functions that was published independently by Neils Henrik Abel and Carl Gustav Jacobi.

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