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Interesting Stories about Mathematicians and Mathematics



Isaac Newton (1643—1727)

Newton was a great scientist who laid the foundation of calculus, optics and classical mechanics.  He is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time.

Some people say that Newton is the greatest physicist and Einstein is the smartest physicist in human history, but many mathematicians disagree.  The reason being that there was no physics (the subject) at his time, so Newton should be the greatest mathematician instead.



Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777—1855)


Gauss is one of the greatest mathematicians in human history.  He was born in a poor family in Germany.  His talent in mathematics showed when he was younger than 3 years old.  One day, his father was calculating the wages for his workers and it took a while for him to get the answers.  Little Gauss told his father that the answers were wrong and taught him the way they could be calculated.  His father re-calculated and found that Gauss was correct.  The amazing part is that there was no one who taught Gauss how to calculate the answers; he just listened and learnt.

One day, when he was in elementary school, his teacher gave the class a problem to solve:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + .......... + 98 + 99 + 100 = ?

As soon as the teacher had asked the question, Gauss wrote down the correct answer 5050 on his stone board (do you know the way to find it out?).  All other students could not get the right answer and Gauss was the only one who could solve the problem.  Gauss was a prodigy in mathematics, just like Mozart in music. 



Pierre de Fermat (1601—1665)


The greatest 'amateur' mathematician, Fermat was a lawyer. He contributed greatly to the areas of calculus, number theory, analytic geometry, probability, and optics.  One of his famous theorems is Fermat's Last Theorem, which states that:

The equation an + bn = cn has no solution for all integers n > 2 and for all non-zero integers a, b, and c.

When n =2, it is the Pythagoras' theorem where we can find integers to fit the equation a2 + b2 = c2.  For example 32 + 42 = 52. However, Fermat believed that there would be no solution for all integer n > 2.

This theorem interested mathematicians for more than 300 years as the proof was not found from Fermat although he claimed he had proven it in 1637.  It was finally proven by a British mathematician Andrew John Wiles in 1995.



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