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 productive of all time. His work contains 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 tides), mechanics ( from rigid body) theory to marine 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 more consistent efforts to bring all of his writings together. This project, which began in 1904, has already published 85 volumes and is still ongoing.

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

After receiving his doctorate in 1726, Euler tried unsuccessfully to get a position as professor at the University of Basel. He also took part in the famous mathematical problem solving competition sponsored by the Paris Academy of Sciences, but took 2nd place. He would win this competition twelve times in his life.

At 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 at 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 back to the following period.

Catarina’s death, succeeded by her son and the discontented Pedro II, worsened the political situation of the scholars, subject to the hostility of the traditionalist faction associated with the new emperor. Daniel Bernoulli returned to Switzerland disappointed in 1733 and was replaced by Euler as head of the Academy’s mathematics department.

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

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