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Leonhard Euler

Was a pioneering Swiss mathematician and

physicist. He made important discoveries in

fields as diverse as infinitesimal calculus and

graph theory. He also introduced much of the

modern mathematical terminology and

notation, particularly for mathematical analysis,

such as the notion of a mathematical function.

He is also renowned for his work in mechanics,

fluid dynamics, optics, astronomy, and music

theory.

Leonhard Euler

Leonhard Euler

Euler is considered to be the pre-eminent

mathematician of the 18th century and one of

the greatest mathematicians to have ever

lived. He is also one of the most prolific

mathematicians; his collected works fill 6080

quarto volumes. He spent most of his adult life

in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in Berlin, Prussia.

Leonhard Euler

Early years

Euler was born on 15 April 1707, in Basel,

Switzerland to Paul Euler, a pastor of the

Reformed Church, and Marguerite Brucker, a

pastor's daughter. He had two younger

sisters named Anna Maria and Maria

Magdalena. Soon after the birth of

Leonhard, the Eulers moved from Basel to

the town of Riehen, where Euler spent most

of his childhood.

Leonhard Euler

St. Petersburg

Around this time Johann Bernoulli's two sons,

Daniel and Nicolas, were working at the

Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences in St

Petersburg. On 10 July 1726, Nicolas died of

appendicitis after spending a year in Russia,

and when Daniel assumed his brother's

position in the mathematics/physics division,

he recommended that the post in physiology

that he had vacated be filled by his friend

Euler.

Leonhard Euler

Leonhard Euler

In November 1726 Euler eagerly accepted the offer, but

delayed making the trip to St Petersburg while he

unsuccessfully applied for a physics professorship at

the

University

Basel

Euler

arrived inofthe

Russian capital on 17 May 1727.

He was promoted from his junior post in the medical

department of the academy to a position in the

mathematics department. He lodged with Daniel

Bernoulli with whom he often worked in close

collaboration. Euler mastered Russian and settled into

life in St Petersburg. He also took on an additional job

as a medic in the Russian Navy.

Leonhard Euler

Euler worked in almost all areas of mathematics, such as

geometry, infinitesimal calculus, trigonometry, algebra, and

number theory, as well as continuum physics, lunar theory and

other areas of physics. He is a seminal figure in the history of

mathematics; if printed, his works, many of which are of

fundamental interest, would occupy between 60 and 80 quarto

volumes. Euler's name is associated with a large number of

topics.

Euler is the only mathematician to have two numbers named

after him: the important Euler's Number in calculus, e,

approximately equal to 2.71828, and the Euler - Mascheroni

Constant (gamma) sometimes referred to as just "Euler's

constant", approximately equal to 0.57721. It is not known

whether is rational or irrational.

Leonhard Euler

Mathematical notation

Euler introduced and popularized several notational

conventions through his numerous and widely circulated

textbooks. Most notably, he introduced the concept of a

function and was the first to write f(x) to denote the function

f applied to the argument x. He also introduced the modern

notation for the trigonometric functions, the letter e for the

base of the natural logarithm (now also known as Euler's

number), the Greek letter for summations and the letter i

to denote the imaginary unit. The use of the Greek letter to

denote the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter

was also popularized by Euler, although it did not originate

with him.

Leonhard Euler

Number theory

Euler's interest in number theory can be traced to the

influence of Christian Goldbach, his friend in the St.

Petersburg Academy. A lot of Euler's early work on

number theory was based on the works of Pierre de

Fermat. Euler developed some of Fermat's ideas, and

disproved some of his conjectures.

Euler linked the nature of prime distribution with ideas

in analysis. He proved that the sum of the reciprocals of

the primes diverges. In doing so, he discovered the

connection between the Riemann zeta function and the

prime numbers; this is known as the Euler product

formula for the Riemann zeta function.

Leonhard Euler

Fermat's theorem on sums of two squares, and he made

distinct contributions to Lagrange's four-square theorem. He

also invented the totient function (n), the number of positive

integers less than or equal to the integer n that are coprime to

n. Using properties of this function, he generalized Fermat's

little theorem to what is now known as Euler's theorem. He

contributed significantly to the theory of perfect numbers,

which had fascinated mathematicians since Euclid. He proved

that the relationship shown between perfect numbers and

Mersenne primes earlier proved by Euclid was one-to-one, a

result otherwise known as the EuclidEuler theorem. Euler also

conjectured the law of quadratic reciprocity. The concept is

regarded as a fundamental theorem of number theory, and his

ideas paved the way for the work of Carl Friedrich Gauss. By

1772 Euler had proved that 2311 = 2,147,483,647 is a

Mersenne prime. It may have remained the largest known

Leonhard Euler

Graph

theory

In 1735, Euler presented a solution to the problem

known as the Seven Bridges of Knigsberg. The city of

Knigsberg, Prussia was set on the Pregel River, and

included two large islands that were connected to

each other and the mainland by seven bridges. The

problem is to decide whether it is possible to follow a

path that crosses each bridge exactly once and

returns to the starting point. It is not possible: there is

no Eulerian circuit. This solution is considered to be

the first theorem of graph theory, specifically of

planar graph theory.

Leonhard Euler

Euler also discovered the formula

VE+F=2 relating the number of

vertices, edges and faces of a convex

polyhedron, and hence of a planar graph.

The constant in this formula is now known

as the Euler characteristic for the graph

(or other mathematical object), and is

related to the genus of the object. The

study and generalization of this formula,

specifically by Cauchy and L'Huillier, is at

the origin of topology.

Leonhard Euler

Applied mathematics

Some of Euler's greatest successes were in solving

real-world problems analytically, and in describing

numerous applications of the Bernoulli numbers,

Fourier series, Venn diagrams, Euler numbers, the

constants e and , continued fractions and integrals.

He integrated Leibniz's differential calculus with

Newton's Method of Fluxions, and developed tools that

made it easier to apply calculus to physical problems.

He made great strides in improving the numerical

approximation of integrals, inventing what are now

known as the Euler approximations.

Leonhard Euler

One of Euler's more unusual interests was

the application of mathematical ideas in

music. In 1739 he wrote the Tentamen

novae theoriae musicae, hoping to

eventually incorporate musical theory as

part of mathematics. This part of his

work, however, did not receive wide

attention and was once described as too

mathematical for musicians and too

musical for mathematicians.

Leonhard Euler

Physics and astronomy

Euler helped develop the EulerBernoulli beam

equation, which became a cornerstone of

engineering. Aside from successfully applying his

analytic tools to problems in classical mechanics,

Euler also applied these techniques to celestial

problems. His work in astronomy was recognized by a

number of Paris Academy Prizes over the course of

his career. His accomplishments include determining

with great accuracy the orbits of comets and other

celestial bodies, understanding the nature of comets,

and calculating the parallax of the sun. His

calculations also contributed to the development of

accurate longitude tables.

Leonhard Euler

In addition, Euler made important

contributions in optics. He disagreed

with Newton's corpuscular theory of

light in the Optics, which was then the

prevailing theory. His 1740s papers on

optics helped ensure that the wave

theory of light proposed by Christiaan

Huygens would become the dominant

mode of thought, at least until the

development of the quantum theory of

Leonhard Euler

Logic

Euler is also credited with using closed curves to

illustrate syllogistic reasoning (1768). These

diagrams have become known as Euler diagrams.

An Euler diagram is a diagrammatic means of

representing sets and their relationships. Euler

diagrams consist of simple closed curves (usually

circles) in the plane that depict sets. Each Euler

curve divides the plane into two regions or "zones":

the interior, which symbolically represents the

elements of the set, and the exterior, which

represents all elements that are not members of

the set. The sizes or shapes of the curves are not

important: the significance of the diagram is in how

Leonhard Euler

by each curve (overlap, containment or neither)

corresponds to set-theoretic relationships

(intersection, subset and disjointness). Curves whose

interior zones do not intersect represent disjoint sets.

Two curves whose interior zones intersect represent

sets that have common elements; the zone inside

both curves represents the set of elements common to

both sets (the intersection of the sets). A curve that is

contained completely within the interior zone of

another represents a subset of it. Euler diagrams were

incorporated as part of instruction in set theory as part

of the new math movement in the 1960s. Since then,

they have also been adopted by other curriculum

Leonhard Euler

Personal philosophy and religious beliefs

Euler and his friend Daniel Bernoulli were opponents of

Leibniz's monadism and the philosophy of Christian Wolff.

Euler insisted that knowledge is founded in part on the basis of

precise quantitative laws, something that monadism and

Wolffian science were unable to provide. Euler's religious

leanings might also have had a bearing on his dislike of the

doctrine; he went so far as to label Wolff's ideas as "heathen

and atheistic".

Much of what is known of Euler's religious beliefs can be

deduced from his Letters to a German Princess and an earlier

work, Rettung der Gttlichen Offenbahrung Gegen die

Einwrfe der Freygeister (Defense of the Divine Revelation

against the Objections of the Freethinkers). These works show

that Euler was a devout Christian who believed the Bible to be

inspired; the Rettung was primarily an argument for the divine

Leonhard Euler

There is a famous legend inspired by Euler's

arguments with secular philosophers over religion,

which is set during Euler's second stint at the St.

Petersburg academy. The French philosopher Denis

Diderot was visiting Russia on Catherine the Great's

invitation. However, the Empress was alarmed that

the philosopher's arguments for atheism were

influencing members of her court, and so Euler was

asked to confront the Frenchman. Diderot was

informed that a learned mathematician had produced

a proof of the existence of God: he agreed to view the

proof as it was presented in court.

Leonhard Euler

Euler appeared, advanced toward Diderot, and in a tone of perfect

conviction announced this non-sequitur: "Sir, a+bn/n=x , hence

God existsreply!" Diderot, to whom (says the story) all

mathematics was gibberish, stood dumbstruck as peals of laughter

erupted from the court. Embarrassed, he asked to leave Russia, a

request that was graciously granted by the Empress. However

amusing the anecdote may be, it is apocryphal, given that Diderot

himself did research in mathematics. The legend was apparently

first told by Dieudonn Thibault with significant embellishment by

Augustus De Morgan.

Leonhard Euler

Commemorations

Euler on the Old Swiss 10 Franc banknote

Euler was featured on the sixth series of the Swiss 10-franc banknote

and on numerous Swiss, German, and Russian postage stamps. The

asteroid 2002 Euler was named in his honor. He is also

commemorated by the Lutheran Church on their Calendar of Saints on

24 Mayhe was a devout Christian (and believer in biblical inerrancy)

who wrote apologetics and argued forcefully against the prominent

atheists of his time.

Leonhard Euler

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