Carl Gauss, the mathematician who has made one of the most powerful tools in science to find a lost planet

But the emotion changed a few weeks later in despair, when the little planet was lost under an overabundance of stars. Astronomers had no idea where he had gone.

Days later, however, a 24-year-old German from Brunswick announced that he knew where to find the missing planet and sent astronomers to point to which part of the night sky. are telescopes.

As if by magic Ceres appeared .

& # 39; night Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß became a celebrity of science.

The magic of mathematics

Of course, his great act of astronomical prediction was not magic. It was an act of mathematics .

At the end of the 18th century the existence of a planet in that neighborhood was already predicted; the astronomers searched for it and found it, but by chance.

Gauss used mathematical analysis to find out which path the celestial body would follow.

  Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß

Gauss was known in his area for his intelligence. Finding Ceres has made him famous. Eventually he became like a god in the mathematical world … and with good reason

The method Gauss invented to find the Ceres route is one of the most important tools in the whole science because it allows us a large number of converting distorted observations into something important.

It is known as the Gaussian function or the normal distribution and thanks to it, crimes have been resolved, drugs have been evaluated and political decisions have been made .

From the point of strictly mathematical point of view, is probably not the greatest achievement of Gauss but the impact it has had on so many different fields of science (and life) is extraordinary.

Who was that young German?

In eighteenth-century Europe, mathematics was an appeal of the privileged, funded by the aristocracy or practiced by amateurs in their spare time.

But one of the most important mathematicians Ndes of that and all time, Carl Frederick Gauss, was born poor .

And it could be said that it was thanks to the vision and patronage of Carlos Guillermo Fernando Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel that he was able to develop his phenomenal talent

  Carlos Guillermo Fernando Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

] The Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel sponsored those who had promising spirits

In 1791, the duke offered to pay the university studies of Gauss, who was 14 years old at the time.

The nobleman was convinced that a well-educated population was the basis of the commercial success of Brunswick and was always looking for excellent students.

Gauss was one of them .

] Brilliant

At the age of 15, he discovered an extraordinary pattern hidden between primes, one of the greatest mysteries in mathematics at the time.

At the age of 19 he discovered a beautiful construction of a standard figure of 17 sides – a heptadecágono – with only a ruler and a compass, something that was considered impossible for 2000 years.


From the time of Ancient Greece to Gauss made this figure that was thought to exist, only the rules were known to construct ordinary triangles, squares, pentagons and a figure of 15 equal sides with only a ruler and a compass, next to all figures that have twice as many sides

At that age, perhaps to keep track of his many progress, he started to keep a mathematical diary.

The entrances begin in 1796 and the last one has the date of July 9, 1814

In the 19 pages one of the most valuable documents s becomes the history of mathematics 146 results briefly noted as …

  • 30 March [1 9659007] Brunswick : The principles on which the division of the circle and the geometric distribution of the same depend on 17 parts .
  • 27 June Göttingen : A new proof of the aureo position at once, from scratch, different and not unaffected.
  • July 10 : Any positive integer can be expressed as the sum of so many three triangular numbers

Although he was so excited about this last discovery that really wrote what he wrote in his diary was:


Later he compiled many of these news items about the characteristics of numbers in his first book, published in 1801, " Disquisitiones Arithmeticae ", dedicated to the generous duke.

In it – among other things – was the basis for a new branch of mathematics, the theory of numbers.

C on seven stamps

Gauss hoped that his work would make it remarkable in France, the epicenter of mathematics in Europe. To his great displeasure, however, it was not well received by the Academy of Sciences of Paris

To a certain extent he himself was to blame.

He presented his ideas about a tan ] incredibly cryptic way that there were people who described his treatise as a book "sealed with seven seals"

However, a French Mathematician wrote to him:

  Principle bridging

" Su ] Disquisitioned Arithmeticae has been the object of my admiration and my study for a long time

" [19659060] The last chapter of this book contains, among other things, the magnificent thesis about the equation 4 (x ^ n-1) / (x-1) = y ^ 2 + -nz ^ 2; I think you can generalize (…)

" Me tome the freedom to submit this attempt to your opinion, convinced that you will not despise to help, with your advice, to be an enthusiastic amateur in the science that you have grown with so such a magnificent success . "

  Monsieur Le Blanc

It was the beginning of a correspondence that would have more consequences [19659007] past mathematics .

In November 1806, his protector, Duke Ferdinand, was mortally wounded in a battle against Napoleon's army.

The state of Hanover fell under the control of Napoleon and the professors were forced to pay a tax to the French government of 2,000 francs, a small fortune at the time.

Gauss refused, himself in great danger .

  Scene of the Duke wounded in battle

The Duke could no longer protect eger In the Battle of Auerstädt (October 14, 1806) he was shot and lost his eyes. Deadly wounded he fled the French troops and died in Ottensen on November 10, 1806

But the mysterious Monsieur Le Blanc used his influence to ensure that nothing bad happened with him and brilliant Gauss

Only when Gauss tried to thank him, s or true identity discovered: Monsieur Le Blanc was actually a woman named Sophie Germain.

  • The extraordinary mathematician who lied to have taken it seriously and helped to solve "one of the most difficult equations" in history

" For fear of derision accompanying a student [19659081] I have previously called the name M Le Blanc to convey those notes that undoubtedly do not deserve the indulgence to which you have responded "explained Germain.

Gauss replied by expressing his astonishment at the turn of the a events:

  Esquela dated April 1807

" The enchanting charms of this sublime science have been revealed only for those who have the courage to dive in 19659062] to .

" But yes a woman who her sex and our prejudices find infinitely more obstacles than a man to become familiar with complicated problems, succeeds in overcoming these obstacles and breaking through the darkest parts of them, certainly the noblest courage extraordinary talents and superior genius have "

  Esquela with Clauss signature

Life without the Duke

Gauss had done most of the work for Disquitiones while the Duke Fernando paid him to i n for astronomy, especially to follow the paths of different celestial bodies: first Ceres, lu ego Pallas, then Juno.

At that time, exploring the night sky was considered a real science: not so the study of [wiskunde] in particular something as abstract as the properties of the numbers.

But in November 1806, with his employer dead, Gauss was forced to seek employment.

An academic indictment was perhaps the obvious choice, but he had " a real aversion to teaching " because students with "unique talents do not want to be trained by master classes, but want to learn for themselves. "

But no one would pay him for research, so Gauss accepted a position as director of the Observatory in Göttingen, a small university town in Lower Saxony, now in Germany.


Astronomy paid, mathematics, no

There he spent his time tracing the paths of heavenly bodies or what he called … " a few clods of earth that we call planets . "

Do not forget that it was while Gauss was following "clogs of earth" so that the duke could be. It happened how to convert a large number of scattered observations into something meaningful.

How did scientists

like to gather truth data about observations?

E The problem with observing the real world is that it is generally not so exact to . If you trace your findings on a chart, they are spread everywhere. There is no pattern.

Anyone who has tried their & # 39; true & # 39; calculate weight, know that it is not easy. It depends on what you use, how accurate your scales are, whether you have eaten that particular day or not.

  Someone you weigh

How much do you weigh?

Gauss had a similar problem with Ceres: there were many measurements on his whereabouts before it disappeared, but there was no indication of his true position.

What he discovered was that if he traced Ceres' actual position in the night sky with inaccurate observations of his whereabouts, he would get a bell-shaped curve.

This is what is known as the Gaussian function or Gaussian bell .

  Gaussian or Gaussian bell

In a graph you see a curve that looks like a simple drawing of a bell: high in the middle with a long tail that extends outwards on each side. Symmetric on the middle line. This enabled Gauss to predict where Ceres would appear later

This method describes much, much more than the Ceres route in the air.

Height is a classic example: there are a few very low people and a few very high, but most are grouped around the most common or average height.

From the height from people to their readings from cholesterol the amount pea in a pod up to the financial data countless observations in chemistry, engineering and agriculture … the bell-shaped curve can be used to distribute an extraordinary number of diverse phenomena in the real world.

Therefore, it is an indispensable companion of scientists, economists, sociologists and others.

It is the soul of statistics .

the useful statistics Correct hoesen is the most powerful weapon we have to separate facts from fiction.

  Gaussian telegraph

One of his practical inventions is the predecessor of electromagnetic communication, a rudimentary telegraph with which he communicated with his collaborator Whihelm Weber

Gaussian ideas also shed light on the statistical correlation.

It may sound technical, but … the length of your arm, for example, is connected to your height? ¡M you and probably !

The idea of ​​the correlation between data is also essential for those trying to find connections between lifestyles and health problems.

] If you trace cholesterol levels against blood pressure and you get a lot of points spread on your graph paper, will there be a path through these points that implies that they are related?

The method that Gauss invented to restore the lost planet. Help answer these questions. That is why it is the basis of modern medicine .

The Queen and the Prince

  Gauss Memorial Plate

The King of Hanover gave him the title of Prince

Gauss also made fundamental contributions to astronomy, geodesy and various branches of physics, such as magnetism and optics.

But his great love was pure mathematics.

In a letter to a friend he wrote: " Mathematics she is the queen of sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics ."

A quote that is even more powerful, because Gauss not only a mathematical giant, but also a first-class scientist. 19659002] And if mathematics is the queen, considering how great the work of Gauss was, the posthumous title with which King George V of Hanover honored him after his death is well deserved: the Prince of Mathematics ].

  BBC Mundo <! – Download the document Appendix to this news item ->

Source link

Leave a Reply