Karl Gauss: Biography

Karl Gauss lived from 1777 to 1855. He was a German mathematician, physician, and astronomer. He was born in Braunschweig, Germany, on April 30th, 1777. His family was poor and uneducated. His father was a gardener and a merchant’s assistant. At a young age, Gauss taught himself how to read and count, and it is said that he spotted a mistake in his father’s calculations when he was only three. Throughout the rest of his early schooling, he stood out remarkably from the rest of the students, and his teachers persuaded his father to train him for profession rather than learn trade.

His skills were noticed while he was in high school, and at age 14 he was sent to the Duke of Brunswick to demonstrate. The Duke was so impressed by this boy, that he offered him a grant that lasted from then until the Duke’s death in 1806. Karl began to study at the Collegium Carolinum in 1792. He went on to the University of Gottingen, and by 1799 was awarded his doctorate from the University. However, by that time most of his significant mathematical iscoveries had been made, and he took up his interest in astronomy in 1801.

By about 1807, Gauss began to gain recognition from countries all over the world. He was invited to work in Leningrad, was made a member of the Royal Society in London, and was invited membership to the Russian and French Academies of Sciences. However, he remained in his hometown in Germany until his death in 1855. Acomplishments During his Teen years, Karl Gauss developed many mathematical theories and proofs, but these would not be recognized for decades because of his lack of ublicity and publication experience.

He discovered what we now call Bode’s Law, and the principle of squares, which we use to find the best fitting curve to a group of observations. Having just finished some work in quadratic residues in 1795, Karl Gauss moved to the University to access the works of previous mathematicians. He quickly began work on a book about the theory of numbers, which is seen as his greatest accomplishment. This book was a summary of the work that had been stablished up to the time, and contained questions that are still relevant today.

While at the University in 1796, he discovered that a 17-sided polygon could be inscribed in a circle with only the tools of a compass and a ruler. This marked the first discovery of Euclidean geometry that had been found in 2000 years. In 1799, Gauss found and proved a theorem of Algebra that fundamental today, that every algebraic equation has a root of the form a+bi. In this, a and b are real numbers, while i’ is the square root of -1. He demonstrated that numbers of the form, which are called complex numbers, can be represented to points on a plane.

During the next 10 years, Gauss concentrated on astronomy. Astronomy was different because he had several collaborators to work with, while in mathematics he worked alone. In 1801 when Giuseppe Piazza discovered Ceres, the first asteroid, it gave Gauss a chance to use his mathematical skill. Through only three observations he found a method of calculating the orbit of an asteroid, and it was published in 1809. For this, the 1001st planetoid discovered was named Gaussia in his honor.

Karl Gauss also pioneered in the field of topography, crystallography, optics, mechanics, and capillarity. While at the University, he invented a heliotrope, which was an instrument that allowed more precise calculations of the shape of the earth. Then, in 1831 he grouped with Wilhelm Weber, and together they produced an electromagnetic telegraph. Also, Gauss developed logical sets of units for magnetic phenomena, thus the unit of magnetic flux density is named after him.


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