10 Greatest Mathematicians of All Time

Great mathematicians have made massive contributions for the evolution of major theorems like Pythagorean Theorem, Fermat’s Last Theorem, Geometrical Theorems, Number system, Probability, and Fractions.

It has helped to advance our collective understanding of mathematics. Such impactful mathematical inventions were not possible without these amazing masterminds with creative ideas and concepts.

Here is the list of top 10 mathematicians who contributed to the mathematical world by inventing and proving the theorems mentioned above and many more.

10.  Pythagoras ( 570 – 495 BC)

Pythagoras ( 570 - 495 BC)

Pythagoras ( 570 – 495 BC ) born on the Greek Island, Samos, was taught by Thales – a master who brought Mathematics back to Greek.

After moving to Egypt, he started learning about their religion, culture, and mathematics and used the knowledge to establish a school which was named after himself ( Pythagoras School). 

Pythagoras, a number-obsessive genius, created many theorems including a theorem of right-angled triangles and Pythagorean theorem within Trigonometry. He also discovered the rational numbers from the musical intervals and mystic numerology.

He was able to gain his popularity by being the first one to prove the Pythagorean theorem which was invented and left unproven by some other mathematician.

He also showed a keen interest in spiritual beliefs, reincarnation, ethics, politics, and had influenced Plato, Euclid, Philolaus, Hippasus, Empedocles, and Parmenides.

9.  Andrew Wiles (1953 )

 Andrew Wiles (1953 )

Andrew Wiles was born in 1953 and started showing interest in theorems from an early age. He came across Fermat’s Last Theorem at a library while he was returning from school which was left unproven and thought of proving it.

Though he had a keen interest in proving the unproven theorem from an early age of 10, he could not do so due to lack of necessary information, ideas, and concepts.

Later, with dedication and numerous research, Wiles took on the challenge to prove the unproven theorem – which was considered as an impossible task and finally in the year 1993, he presented his proof at the Cambridge conference for the first time.

Despite his very fewer contributions and invention in Mathematics, he is considered as the most dedicated mathematicians of all time, as he shut himself down for more than 7 years to prove the theorem which was thought impossible by others. 

Andrew Wiles, an impactful mathematician, is 66 years old today.

8. Leonardo Pisano Bigollo ( 1170- 1240 )

Leonardo Pisano Bigollo ( 1170- 1240 )

Leonardo Pisano Bigollo ( 1170 – 1240 ), a son of the wealthiest merchant – Guglielmo Bonacci, was the most gifted Italian mathematician of the Middle ages, famous for Fibonacci numbers.

Pisano was introduced to the Hindu-Arabic numbers while travelling to northern Africa with his father and recognized the capabilities of the system, which would be more workable than the Roman numeral system that was in use in those days.

Best known for bringing the Hindu – Arabic numeral system to Europe, he introduced the numbers systems through his book, Liber Abaci (1202)- Book of calculation and is also associated with using the number sequence – the Fibonacci numbers.

Along with the number system, Pisano considered the number system which follows the digits 0 to 9 with their place values and their practical efficiency in a wide variety of mathematics.

Liber Abaci had a significant impression on education and was well received by the educated people of Europe.

 7. Girolamo Cardano (1501 -1576 )

Girolamo Cardano (1501 -1576 )

Girolamo Cardano ( 1501 – 1576 ), an Italian mathematician, was associated with various other professions including physician, philosopher, and astrologer.

Despite his father forced him to study law, Cardano joined the University of Pavia to study science, philosophy and had a keen interest in mathematicians as well.

Being the first mathematician to introduce the systematic use of numbers which are less than zero, he was considered the establisher of the binomial coefficients – theorem and the founder of probability.

Cardano has written over 200 books on mathematics, music, philosophy, medicine, religion, and physics. The book, Opus novum de proportionibus is the most significant books of his which comprises of all the binomial coefficients and theorems.

He published a book, Liber de ludo aleae ( Book on Games of Chance) in the year 1663, which was about the systematic treatment of probability and cheating methods and his knowledge of probability was sharpened due to his habit of gambling.

6. Euclid ( around 365 B.C – around 300 B.C )

Euclid ( around 365 B.C - around 300 B.C )

Euclid ( around 365 B.C – about 300 B.C ) is considered to be the most prominent mathematician of Greco-Roman antiquity.

Famously known as the father of Geometry, Euclid is credited for the rigorous instructions, logical proof for theorems and conjectures. His magnum opus – Elements is much used for education and is considered as an essential book until today. 

The fundamental theorem of arithmetic states that every integer which is greater than 1 is either a product of a prime number or a prime number itself.

It is based on Euclid’s lemma which mentions that if a prime number divides the outcome of any two numbers, it should always divide at least one of those numbers.

Euclid has worked on various other aspects of mathematics including optics, data, division of figures, phaenomena, and geometry.

5. Georg Cantor ( 1845 – 1918 )

 Georg Cantor ( 1845 - 1918 )

Georg Cantor ( 1845 – 1918 ), born in St. Petersburg, Russia was a son of a protestant father and an artistic mother. His interest leaned towards mathematical knowledge at the age of 15.

Cantor founded set theory and introduced the concept of transfinite numbers. He was influenced by his teacher, mathematician Karl Weierstrass, while he was attending the University of Berlin to specialize in philosophy, mathematics, and physics.

A brilliant insight on developing mathematical infinity led to the discovery of the counter-intuitive. It concluded that some infinities are larger than others, Cantor was considered to be a brilliant mathematician with a mind-blowing idea.

The most famous Cantor’s Set Theory was based on the Fourier Series but with a slight improvement on the previous theorem.

It defined that all the infinite and well-ordered sets proved that the natural numbers are less numerous than the real numbers. It also established the importance of one to one correspondence between the members of sets.

Cantor suffered mental breakdowns a few times and died in the year 1918.

4. Carl Friedrich Gauss ( 1777 – 1855 )

Carl Friedrich Gauss ( 1777 - 1855 )

Carl Friedrich Gauss ( 1777 – 1855 ) was born in Brunswick, Germany to an honest gardener and was a genius who discovered and penned the Disquisitones Arithmeticae – his best work at the age of 21.

With his exceptional intellectual capability and mathematical talents, Gauss provided numerous significant contributions in the major quarters of mathematics including number theory and theorem of algebra and was considered to be the greatest mathematician of the 19th Century.

Being a perfectionist, he never published all of his works as he was always for some ways to make his theorems better and perfect and notes on one of his major work non-Euclidean space were discovered after his death.

He introduced an analysis made on astronomical data with a realization that measurement error would produce a bell curve, and the shape – Bell Curve is known as the Gaussian distribution.

Carl, famously known as the prince of mathematics, died due to a heart attack at the age of 77.

3. Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727)

Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727)

Isaac Newton ( 1643 – 1727 ), born in Woolsthorpe – by – Colsterworth, UK, got education from Trinity College (Cambridge) and The King’s School(Grantham). He is an English mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and author. 

A genius, who gathered notable credit for inventing calculus with great scientific epic Principia Mathematica- three laws of motion and a theory about the law of gravity, is considered to have influenced the enlightenment in Europe.

In the year 1696, Newton moved to London as a warden of the Royal Mint and was promoted as master of the Mint. ( after 3 years)

There he proved himself to be symbolic, moved the pound sterling from silver to gold standard also sought to punish the counterfeiter, and made the president of the Royal Society in 1703.

In the year 1704, he published another significant work, Opticks, which detailed, painstaking experiments with the colour spectrum, refraction, and closing with ruminations on some matters – energy and electricity.

Isaac Newton died on March 31, 1727, while he was asleep – due to mercury poisoning.

2. Srinivasa Ramanujan ( 1887 – 1920 )

Srinivasa Ramanujan ( 1887 - 1920 )

Srinivasa Ramanujan ( 1887 – 1920 ) was an Indian Mathematician who got interested in mathematics from the age of 15 after getting a copy of George Shoobridge Carr’s Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure – Applied Mathematics.

Despite securing a scholarship to the University of Madras in the year 1903, Srinivasa did not show any interest in any other subjects besides mathematics which led to losing the secured scholarship. 

Publishing the first paper in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society, he started gaining his recognition as a mathematician.

Also, his knowledge of mathematics got him to make further advances, mostly in the partition of numbers – the numbers of positive integers can be expressed as the sum of positive integers: 5 = 4 + 1 or 2+2+1 or 1+1+1+2.

Ramanujan made various contributions to mathematical analysis, continued fractions, and number theory and was associated with the Royal Society as the youngest member ( 31 years ).  

As the first Indian to be elected a fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge, he was able to create a history and influence others by discovering the properties of the partition functions.

Srinivasa died at the age of 32 due to hepatic amoebiasis, which was caused by liver parasites.

1. Leonhard Euler ( 1701 -1783 )

Source: Wikimedia Common

Leonard Leonhard Euler ( 1701 – 1783 ), born in Basel, Switzerland, is one of the greatest mathematicians, physicist, and a scholar of the 18th Century.

Despite working as a rural clergyman, he showed a keen interest in aptitude and propensity for mathematics and spent most of his career in st. Petersburg and Berlin, studying and teaching mathematics.

Euler had published a total of 886 books and papers during his life, from which most of them were published during the last 20 years of experience when he had lost his power of sight.

He designed mathematical terminology, notations for trigonometry, investing logarithmic functions and made various advances in various branches of physics.

He was also considered to be a revolutionary thinker in the fields of geometry, calculus, trigonometry, number theory, differential equations, and notational systems.

Euler lost his life from a brain haemorrhage on September 18, 1783, in St.Petersburg.

Conclusion:

With the efforts, ideas, geniuses, and initiations of these significant mathematicians, many have been influenced and encouraged directly or indirectly. 

The theorems established by all of the mentioned masterminds have been useful from the time they were proved until today.

Some of the other significant mathematicians include G.F. Bernhard Riemann, Rene Descartes, Wilhelm Leibniz, Hypatia, and Pierre de Fermat.


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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "10 Greatest Mathematicians of All Time," in HistoryTen, March 11, 2020, https://historyten.com/people/greatest-mathematicians-of-all-time/.
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