I’ve not studied much of the history of mathematics but occasionally I read from a few books I have on my shelf on the subject. When my mind is bogged down and I am unmotivated on my current projects, I pick up, say, Makers of Mathematics, by Stuart Hollingdale.
Today, I flipped open to the chapter on Leonhard Euler (one of my mathematical heroes) and learned (or re-learned) a few interesting facts about the man.
- Entered the University to study theology and Hebrew but his mathematical abilities attracted the attention of Johann Bernoulli who gave him a private lesson once a week. He received his master’s at 17.
- His father greatly desired him to pursue his theological ambition’s but was convinced by Bernoulli that his son was destined to be a great mathematician. Leonhard Euler remained a devout Calvinist all his life.
- At the age of 26, Euler took on the leading mathematical position at St. Petersburg Academy
- He and his wife had 13 children, only 5 of whom survived to adulthood.
- He lost sight in his right eye fairly early in his career, probably due to overwork.
- He spent 25 years at Berlin Academy and then returned to St. Petersburg at the age of 59 about which time he lost sight in his other eye. The blindness didn’t stop him. In fact, he completed a comprehensive analysis on the theory of the Moon’s motion. All the complicated analysis was done entirely in his head.
- In 1771, his house burned down. In 1776, his wife passed away. He died in 1783 at the age of 76 still active to the end.
- All told, he published more than 500 books and papers during his lifetime, while a further 400 appeared post-humously. It has been computed that his publications during his working life averaged about 800 pages a year.
For the record, the correct pronunciation of Euler is “oiler” not “yuler”. That’s a minor pet peeve of mine. It ranks right up there with folks that write my name as Scoot instead of Scott. ;)