Euler, the most prolific mathematician in history – 02/23/2021 – Marcelo Viana

Leonhard Euler is one of the greatest mathematicians in history and certainly the most prolific of all time. His works contain numerous fundamental contributions to various areas of mathematics (from number theory to probability), physics (acoustics, optics), astronomy (from the movement of planets and comets to geophysics and the study of the tides), mechanics ( from rigid body theory to naval science), logic, philosophy and even music.

Euler’s “complete” works were published in the 19th century, but the work was unsatisfactory, which motivated the Swiss Academy of Sciences to make a more consistent effort to bring together all his writings. Started in 1904, this project has already published 85 volumes of work and has not yet been completed.

Euler was born in Basel, the capital of Switzerland, on April 15, 1707. He was contemporary and close to several members of the Bernoulli family, especially Daniel Bernoulli (1700 – 1782), with whom he maintained friendship throughout his life.

After finishing his doctorate in 1726, Euler tried unsuccessfully to obtain a position as a professor at the University of Basel. He also participated in the famous competition for solving mathematical problems promoted by the Paris Academy of Sciences, but he was in 2nd place. He would win this contest twelve times in his lifetime.

By that time, Daniel Bernoulli became a member of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia, and recommended his friend Euler to the chair of physiology at the academy. Disappointed by the failure in his hometown, Euler accepted the invitation of Empress Catherine I and traveled to St. Petersburg, where he arrived in May 1727. Many of his great discoveries date from the period that followed.

Catarina’s death, succeeded by her son and disaffected Pedro II, worsened the political situation of scientists, subject to the hostility of the traditionalist faction linked to the new emperor. Disappointed, Daniel Bernoulli returned to Switzerland in 1733, being succeeded by Euler as head of the Academy’s mathematics division.

The following year Euler married the daughter of an Academy painter. His wife Katharina would give birth to 13 children, of whom only five have reached adulthood. The family remained in St. Petersburg until June 1741, when Euler accepted an irrefutable offer from Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, to take up the direction of mathematics at the Berlin Academy of Sciences.

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