This is primarily a list of Greatest Mathematicians of the Past, but I use birth as an arbitrary cutoff, and two of the "Top " are still alive now. Click here for a longer List of including many more 20th-century mathematicians. Click for a discussion of certain omissions. Please send me e-mail if you believe there's a major flaw in my rankings or an error in any of the biographies.
Biography[ edit ] Maupertuis was born at Saint-MaloFrance, to a moderately wealthy family of merchant- corsairs. After three years in the cavalry, during which time he became acquainted with fashionable social and mathematical circles, he moved to Paris and began building his reputation as a mathematician and literary wit.
His early mathematical work revolved around the Bernoulli principle essay viva controversy, for which Maupertuis developed and extended the work of Isaac Newton whose theories were not yet widely accepted outside England and argued against the waning Cartesian mechanics. In the s, the shape of the Earth became a flashpoint in the battle among rival systems of mechanics.
Maupertuis, based on his exposition of Newton with the help of his mentor Johan Bernoulli predicted that the Earth should be oblatewhile his rival Jacques Cassini measured it astronomically to be prolate.
His results, which he published in a book detailing his procedures, essentially settled the controversy in his favour. On his return home he became a member of almost all the scientific societies of Europe.
He also expanded into the biological realm, anonymously publishing a book that was part popular science, Bernoulli principle essay philosophy, and part erotica: In that work, Maupertuis proposed a theory of generation i.
He later developed his views on living things further in a more formal pseudonymous work that explored hereditycollecting evidence that confirmed the contributions of both sexes and treated variations as statistical phenomena.
In Maupertuis went to Berlin at the invitation of Frederick II of Prussiaand took part in the Battle of Mollwitzwhere he was taken prisoner by the Austrians. Returning to Berlin inagain at the desire of Frederick II, he was chosen president of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences inwhich he controlled with the help of Leonhard Euler until his death.
His position became extremely awkward with the outbreak of the Seven Years' War between his home country and his patron's, and his reputation suffered in both Paris and Berlin. Finding his health declining, he retired in to the south of France, but went in to Baselwhere he died a year later.
It was the insight of genius that led him to least-action principle, but a lack of intellectual energy or rigour that prevented his giving it the mathematical foundation that Lagrange would provide He reveals remarkable powers of perception in heredity, in understanding the mechanism by which species developed, even in immunology, but no fully elaborated theory.
His philosophical work is his most enthralling: Mayr's verdict was "He was neither an evolutionistnor one of the founders of the theory of natural selection [but] he was one of the pioneers of genetics ".
Maupertuis espoused a theory of pangenesispostulating particles from both mother and father as responsible for the characters of the child. He was also one of the first to consider animals in terms of variable populations, in opposition to the natural history tradition that emphasised description of individual specimens.
The difficulty of interpreting Maupertius can be gauged by reading the original works. Below is a translation from the Essai de cosmologie, followed by the original French passage: But could one not say that, in the fortuitous combinations of the productions of nature, as there must be some characterized by certain relations of fitness  which are able to subsist, it is not to be wondered at that this fitness is present in all the species that are currently in existence?
Chance, it may be said, produced an innumerable multitude of individuals; a small number found themselves constructed in such a manner that the parts of the animal were able to satisfy its needs; in another infinitely greater number, there was neither fitness nor order: Animals lacking a mouth could not live; others lacking reproductive organs could not perpetuate themselves; the only ones that remained are those in which order and fitness were found; and these species, which we see today, are but the smallest part of what blind destiny has produced.
King-Hele points to similar, though not identical, ideas of thirty years later by David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion The chief debate that Maupertuis was engaged in was one that treated the competing theories of generation i.
His account of life involved spontaneous generation of new kinds of animals and plants, together with massive elimination of deficient forms. These ideas avoid the need for a Creator, but are not part of modern thinking on evolution. Also, the work on genealogycoupled with the tracing of phenotypic characters through lineages, foreshadows later work done in genetics.
Least action principle[ edit ] This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. November Learn how and when to remove this template message The principle of least action states that in all natural phenomena a quantity called 'action' tends to be minimised. Maupertuis developed such a principle over two decades.
For him, action could be expressed mathematically as the product of the mass of the body involved, the distance it had travelled and the velocity at which it was travelling. Inhe gave a paper to the Paris Academy of Sciences, Loi du repos des corps, Law of bodies at rest.
In it he showed that a system of bodies at rest tends to reach a position in which any change would create the smallest possible change in a quantity that he argued could be assimilated to action.
Inin another paper to the Paris Academy, he gave his Accord de plusieurs lois naturelles qui avaient paru jusqu'ici incompatibles Agreement of several natural laws that had hitherto seemed to be incompatible to show that the behaviour of light during refraction — when it bends on entering a new medium — was such that the total path it followed, from a point in the first medium to a point in the second, minimised a quantity which he again assimilated to action.
Finally, in he gave a further paper, the Loix du mouvement et du repos Laws of movement and restthis time to the Berlin Academy of Sciences, which showed that point masses also minimise action. Point masses are bodies that can be treated for the purposes of analysis as being a certain amount of matter a mass concentrated at a single point.
A major debate in the early part of the eighteenth century concerned the behaviour of such bodies in collisions. Cartesian and Newtonian physicists argued that in their collisions, point masses conserved both momentum and relative velocity. Leibnizians, on the other hand, argued that they also conserved what was called live force or vis viva.It will now be perceived that a general application may be made of the principle developed in the preceding example, to every species of process which it may be proposed to effect on series submitted to calculation.
It is sufficient that the law of formation of the coefficients be known, and that this law be inscribed on the cards of the machine, which will then of itself execute all the. A Time-line for the History of Mathematics (Many of the early dates are approximates) This work is under constant revision, so come back later.
Please report any errors to me at [email protected] History of logic - Modern logic: It is customary to speak of logic since the Renaissance as “modern logic.” This is not to suggest that there was a smooth development of a unified conception of reasoning, or that the logic of this period is “modern” in the usual sense.
Logic in the modern era has exhibited an extreme diversity, and its chaotic development has reflected all too clearly. Louis Armstrong: A Man Full Of Surprises - Louis Armstrong: a Man Full of Surprises Louis Armstrong was an amazing trumpet player.
Not only did he play the trumpet, he also was a bandleader, an amazing composer, singer, soloist, and comedian and also starred in films. History of logic - Modern logic: It is customary to speak of logic since the Renaissance as “modern logic.” This is not to suggest that there was a smooth development of a unified conception of reasoning, or that the logic of this period is “modern” in the usual sense.
Logic in the modern era has exhibited an extreme diversity, and its chaotic development has reflected all too clearly. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization helping the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways.