Known to many as “Prince of Mathematics”, Carl Friedrich Gauss (born Johann Friedrich Gauss) was destined for greatness nearly from the time of Brunswick, Germany on an April day 1777. Interestingly enough, Carl’s Mother, Dorothea Benze, had not known the exact date of his birth, only eight days before the holiday Ascension. Almost 30 years later, Gauss created a rule for knowing the date of Easter, letting him place his birthday on April 30.
As a toddler, Carl showed signs of being highly intelligent. It is said that he could add and subtract almost before he could walk. Gauss asked his father, Gebhard Gauss, to teach him the alphabet. He easily learned to and taught himself to read. Not willing or unable to recognize his son’s genius, Carl’s father sent him to spin flax in the evening in order to make money to help at home. However, it was Carl’s uncle who recognized his nephew’s potential.
At age seven, Carl was sent to the local grammar school. Soon the teacher found that this young pupil moved beyond what could be taught there. Gauss’ father was called in and informed of his son’s brilliance. Most likely, Gebhard left feeling a sense of pride that his son would be more than a tradesman, but possibly a lawyer or even a professor. With that news, Carl was immediately put to work studying instead of spinning flax.
News of the boy prodigy spread all over Brunswick. Soon the ears of the Duke of Brunswick heard of him. The impressed Duke sent for Carl, and so began a friendship that would last until the Duke’s death. With all expenses paid by his new friend, Carl was sent to college at age 15. He studied modern and ancient languages as well as mathematics. At 18, he went to the University of Gottingen. There, he was between whether to pursue mathematics of languages. His decision was clear on March 30, 1796, when he discovered how to build a 7- sided polygon with only a compass and straightedge.
In his old age, Gauss considered also began keeping a “mathematical diary” in which he wrote many of the mathematical ideas and problems he encountered. In 1798, Gauss created a manuscript, for the theory of numbers called Disquisitions Arithmetica, however it was not printed until 1801. With this minor setback, Gauss wrote a n equally important but shorter piece about a proof he found for the fundamental theorem of algebra (published 1799.) Every integral rational equation in a single variable has at least one root. Without Gauss proving the fundamental theorem we would be further behind in the attempt to systematize and generalize algebra and its rules.
Gauss received his doctorate from the University of Helmstedt for his dissertation and, while still being supported by the Duke, got Disquisitions Arithmetica ready for print. It is said that it was during this period Gauss wrote his short essay The Metaphysics of Mathematics, which is said to be one of the clearest and simplest discussions ever written on the foundation of mathematics. In his...