Books by Johann Gauss
Books about Johann Gauss

Biography: Johann Gauss

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss was born 30 April 1777 in Brunswick, Duchy of Brunswick (now Germany), and he died 23 Feb 1855 in Göttingen, Hanover (now Germany). Carl Friedrich Gaussworked in a wide variety of fields in both mathematics and physics incuding number theory, analysis, differential geometry, geodesy, magnetism, astronomy and optics. His work has had an immense influence in many areas. At the age of seven, Carl Friedrich started elementary school, and his potential was noticed almost immediately. His teacher, Büttner, and his assistant, Martin Bartels, were amazed when Gauss summed the integers from 1 to 100 instantly by spotting that the sum was 50 pairs of numbers each pair summing to 101.

In 1788 Gauss began his education at the Gymnasium with the help of Büttner and Bartels, where he learnt High German and Latin. After receiving a stipend from the Duke of Brunswick- Wolfenbüttel, Gauss entered Brunswick Collegium Carolinum in 1792. At the academy Gauss independently discovered Bode's law, the binomial theorem and the arithmetic- geometric mean, as well as the law of quadratic reciprocity and the prime number theorem.

In 1795 Gauss left Brunswick to study at Göttingen University. Gauss's teacher there was Kaestner, whom Gauss often ridiculed. His only known friend amongst the students was Farkas Bolyai. They met in 1799 and corresponded with each other for many years.

Gauss left Göttingen in 1798 without a diploma, but by this time he had made one of his most important discoveries - the construction of a regular 17-gon by ruler and compasses This was the most major advance in this field since the time of Greek mathematics and was published as Section VII of Gauss's famous work, Disquisitiones Arithmeticae .

Gauss returned to Brunswick where he received a degree in 1799. After the Duke of Brunswick had agreed to continue Gauss's stipend, he requested that Gauss submit a doctoral dissertation to the University of Helmstedt. He already knew Pfaff, who was chosen to be his advisor. Gauss's dissertation was a discussion of the fundamental theorem of algebra.

With his stipend to support him, Gauss did not need to find a job so devoted himself to research. He published the book Disquisitiones Arithmeticae in the summer of 1801. There were seven sections, all but the last section, referred to above, being devoted to number theory.

In June 1801, Zach, an astronomer whom Gauss had come to know two or three years previously, published the orbital positions of Ceres, a new "small planet" which was discovered by G Piazzi, an Italian astronomer on 1 January, 1801. Unfortunately, Piazzi had only been able to observe 9 degrees of its orbit before it disappeared behind the Sun. Zach published several predictions of its position, including one by Gauss which differed greatly from the others. When Ceres was rediscovered by Zach on 7 December 1801 it was almost exactly where Gauss had predicted. Although he did not disclose his methods at the time, Gauss had used his least squares approximation method.

In June 1802 Gauss visited Olbers who had discovered Pallas in March of that year and Gauss investigated its orbit. Olbers requested that Gauss be made director of the proposed new observatory in Göttingen, but no action was taken. Gauss began corresponding with Bessel, whom he did not meet until 1825, and with Sophie Germain.

Gauss married Johanna Ostoff on 9 October, 1805. Despite having a happy personal life for the first time, his benefactor, the Duke of Brunswick, was killed fighting for the Prussian army. In 1807 Gauss left Brunswick to take up the position of director of the Göttingen observatory.

Gauss arrived in Göttingen in late 1807. In 1808 his father died, and a year later Gauss's wife Johanna died after giving birth to their second son, who was to die soon after her. Gauss was shattered and wrote to Olbers asking him give him a home for a few weeks,

to gather new strength in the arms of your friendship - strength for a life which is only valuable because it belongs to my three small children.
Gauss was married for a second time the next year, to Minna the best friend of Johanna, and although they had three children, this marriage seemed to be one of convenience for Gauss.

Gauss's work never seemed to suffer from his personal tragedy. He published his second book, Theoria motus corporum coelestium in sectionibus conicis Solem ambientium, in 1809, a major two volume treatise on the motion of celestial bodies. In the first volume he discussed differential equations, conic sections and elliptic orbits, while in the second volume, the main part of the work, he showed how to estimate and then to refine the estimation of a planet's orbit. Gauss's contributions to theoretical astronomy stopped after 1817, although he went on making observations until the age of 70.

Much of Gauss's time was spent on a new observatory, completed in 1816, but he still found the time to work on other subjects. His publications during this time include Disquisitiones generales circa seriem infinitam , a rigorous treatment of series and an introduction of the hypergeometric function, Methodus nova integralium valores per approximationem inveniendi , a practical essay on approximate integration, Bestimmung der Genauigkeit der Beobachtungen , a discussion of statistical estimators, and Theoria attractionis corporum sphaeroidicorum ellipticorum homogeneorum methodus nova tractata . The latter work was inspired by geodesic problems and was principally concerned with potential theory. In fact, Gauss found himself more and more interested in geodesy in the 1820's.

Gauss had been asked in 1818 to carry out a geodesic survey of the state of Hanover to link up with the existing Danish grid. Gauss was pleased to accept and took personal charge of the survey, making measurements during the day and reducing them at night, using his extraordinary mental capacity for calculations. He regularly wrote to Schumacher, Olbers and Bessel, reporting on his progress and discussing problems.

Because of the survey, Gauss invented the heliotrope which worked by reflecting the Sun's rays using a design of mirrors and a small telescope. However, inaccurate base lines were used for the survey and an unsatisfactory network of triangles. Gauss often wondered if he would have been better advised to have pursued some other occupation but he published over 70 papers between 1820 and 1830.

In 1822 Gauss won the Copenhagen University Prize with Theoria attractionis... together with the idea of mapping one surface onto another so that the two are similar in their smallest parts . This paper was published in 1825 and led to the much later publication of Untersuchungen über Gegenstände der Höheren Geodäsie (1843 and 1846). The paper Theoria combinationis observationum erroribus minimis obnoxiae (1823), with its supplement (1828), was devoted to mathematical statistics, in particular to the least squares method.

From the early 1800's Gauss had an interest in the question of the possible existence of a non-Euclidean geometry. He discussed this topic at length with Farkas Bolyai and in his correspondence with Gerling and Schumacher. In a book review in 1816 he discussed proofs which deduced the axiom of parallels from the other Euclidean axioms, suggesting that he believed in the existence of non-Euclidean geometry, although he was rather vague. Gauss confided in Schumacher, telling him that he believed his reputation would suffer if he admitted in public that he believed in the existence of such a geometry.

In 1831 Farkas Bolyai sent to Gauss his son Ján



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