Gauss, Carl Friedrich (1777-1855).  The German scientist and mathematician Gauss is frequently he was called the founder of modern mathematics.  His work is astronomy and physics is nearly as significant as that in mathematics.

Gauss was born on April 30, 1777 in Brunswick (now it is Western Germany).  Many biographists think that he got his good health from his father.  Gauss said about himself that, he could count before he can talk. When Gauss was 7 years old he went to school.  In the third grade students came when they were 10-15 years old, so teacher should work with students of different ages.  Because of it he gave to half of students long problems to count, so he in that time could teach other half.  One day he gave half of students, Gauss was in this half, to add all natural numbers from 1 to 100.  10 year old Gauss put his paper with answer on the teacher’s desk first and he was the only who has got the right answer.  From that day Gauss was popular in the whole school.

On October 15, 1795, Gauss was admitted to Georgia Augusta as “matheseos cult.”; that is to say, as a mathematics student.  But it is often pointed out that at first Gauss was undecided whether he should become a mathematician or a philologist.  The reason for this indecision was probably that humanists at that time had a better economic future than scientists.

Gauss first became completely certain of his choice of studies when he discovered the construction of the regular 17-sided polygon with ruler and compass; that is to say, after his first year at the university. There are several reasons to support the assertion that Gauss hesitated in his choice of a career.  But his matriculation as a student of mathematics does not point toward philology, and probably Gauss had already made his decision when he arrived at Gottingen.  He wrote in 1808 that it was noteworthy how number theory arouses a special passion among everyone who has seriously studied it at some time, and, as we have seen, he had found new results in this and other areas of mathematics while he was still at Collegium Carolinum.

Gauss made great discoveries in many fields of math.  He gave the proof of the fundamental theorem of algebra:  every polynomial equation with complex coefficients has at least one complex root.  He developed the theory of some important special functions, in particular, the theory of the hypergeometric function.  This function plays significant role in modern mathematical physics.  Gauss discovered the method of so-called least squares.  It is a method of obtaining the best possible average value for a measured magnitude, for many observations of the magnitude.  The other part of mathematics that also has close connections to Gauss, is the theory of complex numbers.  Gauss gave a very important geometric interpretation of a complex number as a point in the plane.  Besides pure mathemaics, Gauss made very important contributions in astronomy, geodesy and other applied disciplines.  For example, he predicted the location of some sky bodies.

In 1803 Gauss had met Johanna Osthoff, the daughter of a tannery owner in Braunschweig.  She was born in 1780 and was an only child.  They were married on October 9, 1805. They were lived on in Braunschweig for a time, in the house which Gauss had occupied as a bachelor.

On August 21, 1806, his first son Joseph was born.  He received his name after Peazzi, the discoverer of Ceres.  On February 29, 1808 a daughter followed, and gauss jokingly complained that she would only have a birthday every fourth year.  As a mark of respect to Olbers she was christened Wilhelmina.  The third child, a son, born on september 10, 1809, was named Ludwig, after Harding, but was called Louis.After a difficult third delivery, Johanna died on October 11, 1809.  Louis died suddenly on March 1, 1810.

Minna Waldeck was born in 1799, she was the youngest daughter of a Professor Of Law, Johann Peter Waldeck, Of Gottingen.  Gauss married her on August 4, 1810.  The new marriage was a happy solution to Gauss’s nonscientific problems.

Two sons and a daughter were born in the new marriage, Eugene on July 29, 1811, Wilhelm on October 23, 1813, and Therese on June 9, 1816. In 1816 Gauss and his family moved into the west wing, while Harding lived in the east.  During the following years, Gauss and Harding installed the astronomical instruments.  New ones were ordered in Munich.  Among other times, Gauss visited Munich in 1816.

After the intense sorrow of Johanna’s death had been mollified in his second marriage, Gauss lived an ordinary academic life which was hardly disturbed by the violent events of the time.  His powers and his productivity were unimpaired, and he continued with a work program which in a short time would have brought an ordinary man to collapse.

Although Gauss was often upset about his health, he was healthy almost all of his life.  His capacity for work was colossal and it is best likened to the contributions of different teams of researchers over a period of many years, in mathematics, astronomy, geodesy, and physics.  He must have been as strong as a bear in order not to have broken under such a burden.  He distrusted all doctors and did not pay much attention to Olbers’ warnings.  During the winters of 1852 and 1853 the symptoms are thought to have become more serious, and in January of 1854 Gauss underwent a careful examination by his colleague Wilhelm Baum, professor of surgery.

The last days were difficult, but between heart attacks Gauss read a great deal, half lying in an easy chair.  Sartorius visited him the middle of January and observed that his clear blue eyes had not lost their gleam.  The end came about a month later.  In the morning of February 23, 1855 Gauss died peacefully in his sleep.  He was seventy-seven years old.


Gindikin, S.G., Stories about physicists and mathematicians, Russia,    Moscow, “Nauka”, 1982 (in Russian).

Hall, T., Carl Friedrich Gauss, The Massachusetts Institute of    Technology, 1970.

Muir, Jane, Of Men and Numbers: The Story of Great Mathematicians.      Dodd, Mead, and Co, New York, 1961.

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