16 Famous and Greatest Mathematicians | 2019 Edition

Mathematics is perhaps one of the most important subjects we study today, though it’s been there since the ancient Greeks. Math allowed us to transmit the electricity over thousands of kilometers, explored the concept behind DNA, gave rise to computers and is essential in our quest to understand the universe. Without maths, scientists can’t develop medicines or engineers can’t explore or make advance technologies.

So technically, without maths we cannot perform almost anything. Since, the early Babylonians and Egyptians, there are many advancements in the field of mathematics. Many generations come and go, but these theories remained and continued to affect our lives one way or the other. Who are those mathematicians? In this list, we brought the 16 famous and greatest mathematicians.

15. Srinivasa Ramanujan

Srinivasa Ramanujan was one of the most influential mathematicians of India. Before his unfortunate death at a young age, he had successfully assembled almost 4,000 different mathematical identities and equations. Ramanujan had no formal education in the subject, as he started gaining mathematical knowledge at the age of 11 all on his own.

By the age of 16, he was able to study Bernoulli numbers which he had developed himself, he also successfully calculated the Euler–Mascheroni constant. He gained international fame after G. H Hardy, a prominent British mathematician recognized his work and compared him with the likes of Euler and Jacobi.

His contributions towards the field of mathematical analysis, infinite series, number theory, and continued fractions are considered invaluable. He is widely known for Landau–Ramanujan constant, Ramanujan conjecture and other important theories.

14. David Hilbert

During the 19th and 20th centuries, there were only a few mathematicians than can match the fame of David Hilbert, who played an instrumental role in developing many fundamental theories including invariant theory and the axiomatization of geometry. Apart from mathematics, he also excelled in physics and philosophy.

13. Andrew Wiles

Sir Andrew Wiles is a British mathematician and currently a research professor at the Oxford University. Wiles earned his graduate degree in mathematics in 1974 and PhD in 1980 from Oxford University. Among his many accomplishments, the most famous one is his proof of Fermat’s Last theorem, which was earlier considered as one of the most difficult problems in maths. He also proved the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture for semi stable elliptic curves and main conjecture of Iwasawa theory.

12. Henri Poincaré

According to Eric Bell, a notable Scottish Mathematician, Henri Poincare was probably one of the last Universalist, as he thrived in almost all known fields of the discipline at that time. Poincare, during his lifetime contributed numerous fundamental theories in applied mathematics, mathematical physics, and celestial mechanics. He also played a crucial role in the formulation of theory of Special Relativity.

Moreover, his exceptional works on Lorentz transformation and the Three-body problem paved way for the future mathematicians and astrophysicists to make new discoveries about our planet and the space surrounding it. Not only in the field of maths and science that he made important contributions, his theoretical works inspired famous artists such as Picasso and Braque to establish an art movement in the 20th century.

11. Joseph-Louis Lagrange

Joseph Lagrange was one of the most notable students of the legendary mathematician Leonhard Euler. Lagrange’s contribution to the field of mathematics are second to none. He was one of the founding fathers of the calculus of variations. He also invented his own way to solve differential equations by variation of parameters. Apart from mathematics, he also made important observations in the field of mechanics by devising the Lagrangian mechanics.

10. Pythagoras

We have all encountered the Pythagoras theorem early in our lives as it’s elementary for many advanced mathematics. The theorem was devised by Pythagoras of Samos, although many historians are still not sure that whether he truly contributed to the field of mathematics or philosophy. Pythagoras was born in around 570 BC, and not much information about his early life is available to us. His works influenced some of the greatest minds in the world’s history, such as Plato and Euclid.

9. G.F. Bernhard Riemann

G.F. Bernhard Riemann was a German mathematician who greatly contributed to the number theory and differential geometry. He was born in Breselenz in Federal Republic of Germany and grew in poverty. While growing, he developed the fear of making decisions and speaking in public, but had some exceptional skills in mathematical calculations.

Greatly influenced by his teacher and a great mathematician Perter Gustav Dirichlet, Riemann dedicated most of his work to him and even used his principle to devise his famous mapping theorem. He founded Riemannian geometry and many mathematical things named after him. Some of his mathematical equations were later used by Einstein in his General Relativity theory.

8. Fibonacci

Well, there is a slight dispute among the historians about the real name of Fibonacci. According to some its Leonardo Bonacci while many prefer Leonardo Pisano Bigollo. He was born in The Republic Pisa (now Italy) around 1175 to a wealthy merchant family.

It was due to this profession, he was able to travel extensively, especially around the Mediterranean coast. He compiled his famous Liber Abaci, (numerals code book), by greeting merchants and learning about their arithmetic systems. He is also known for the Fibonacci sequence, which was named after him.

7. Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi

Carl Gustav Jacobi was one of the prominent mathematicians of the 19th century. His formulation of the theory of elliptic functions is perhaps his greatest contribution to the field. Jacobi was also instrumental in the studies of differential equations and rational mechanics (Hamilton-Jacobi theory).

Moreover, he made fundamental contributions towards mechanical dynamics, and number theory. In 1851, Jacobi died after suffering from a smallpox infection. In his honor, a crater on the Moon is named after him.

6. Carl Friedrich Gauss

Carl Friedrich Gauss was a German mathematician who contributed greatly to the number system, algebra and electrostatics. He was born on 30th April 1777 in Lower Saxony, Germany and made his first mathematical discovery when he was just a teenager. Some of his popular works are Gauss law, Gauss-Newton algorithm and Gaussian optics. To commemorate him, Gauss Prize is given as one of the highest honors in mathematics.

5. Alan Turing

Alan Turing played a pivotal role in ending the World War II in the favor of the allied forces including Britain. During the World War II, the German intelligence was considered the most secured and impenetrable network. Many allied nations feared that if they cannot intercept important transmissions by the Nazi high command, they might eventually lose the war due to heavy losses. It was Alan Turing, who with his unprecedented mathematical and cryptanalytic abilities made significant improvements over the Polish made bombe and devised a machine that can decode the Enigma faster.

During the post war period, Turing while working at the National Physical Laboratory in United Kingdom, devised the first ever stored-program computer, the ACE. He was also a part of the team who made the Manchester computer. Later in his career, he diverted his attention towards theoretical biology, where he mathematically predicted the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, which was later observed in 1960s.

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4. Issac Newton

Although, Newton made some groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of physics and astronomy, he is also considered as one of the greatest mathematician in the history of mankind. Newton was one of pioneers of classical mechanics, he also made some important contributions to the field of optics. But, perhaps most important of his discoveries are the universal gravitation and the laws of motion. He was among the very first to certify the heliocentric design of our solar system.

3. Leonhard Euler

In a tribute to Leonhard Euler and his contributions towards mathematics, Pierre-Simon Laplace, a notable French astronomer and mathematician wrote, “Read Euler, read him again and again, he is the master of us all.” Mathematicians today, holds Euler in the highest regard and consider him the most important mathematicians of the 18th century.

He made some very important contribution in infinite calculus, algebra, trigonometry and graph theory. Some of his discoveries were used in solving real world problems which were later used in Fourier series and Venn diagrams. He is also widely known for his work in fluid dynamics, mechanics and optics. His works also influenced another great mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange.

2. Archimedes

His calculations of the number pi remained the only known way to calculate the circumference of the circle for several  decades and that’s how he influenced the early mathematics. Archimedes was born in around 287 BC and spent most of his life designing machines that are capable of lifting ships out of water. He is generally considered as one of the greatest mathematician of all time. In today’s high tech world, the Archimedes principle has numerous applications such as in building submarines, hot air balloon, hydrometer and naval ships.

1. Euclid

Euclid was a Greek mathematician and also known as the father of geometry. A very little information is known about him. Most of his work revolved around the number theory and geometry. His works in the field of mathematics are one of the most influential works in the history. Some of his notable work includes fundamental theorem of arithmetic, Euclidean algorithm, perfect numbers and Euclidean geometry.

Bonus: The Bernoulli Brothers

Jacob Bernoulli and his brother Johann Bernoulli are two most important individuals in mathematics who are responsible for advancement of the field with their theorems and justifications such as Bernoulli number and Brachistochrone curve. Jacob’s son and Johann’s nephew, Daniel Bernoulli was also one of the prominent members of the Bernoulli family.

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According to many contemporary mathematicians, Daniel was considered much more superior than his own father, which later resulted in Jacob’s bitter relationship with his son. One of his most acclaimed works is the Bernoulli’s principle, which is named after him. The family also had a relationship with the Curie family.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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