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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Gauss, Johann"

Gauss, Johann Karl Friedrich [Astro*Index]


(1777-1855) German mathematician. Born at Braunschweig (Brunswick); died at Gottingen, Hannover.

Considered one of the three greatest mathematicians of all time (with Archimedes and Newton), Gauss made extensive contributions to both mathematics and Celestial Mechanics. In his teens, he presented his Method of Least Squares. He calculated an orbit for Ceres from Piazzi's observations which permitted it to be located after it was lost. He derived Perturbation Theories which were used by Leverrier and Adams to discover the planet Neptune. He presented a method for constructing a 17-gon, an equilateral polygon of 17 sides, and proved that only polygons of certain numbers of sides could be constructed with straightedge and compass. This demonstration (of impossibility) sparked a development in mathematics which led to the remarkable work of Godel. He made major contributions to the Theory of Numbers, begun by Fermat. And, he developed a non-Euclidean geometry. In 1799, he proved the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra (that every algebraic equation has a root of the form (a+bi), where a and b are real numbers, and i is the square root of minus one. This was followed, in 1801, by the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic (every natural number can be represented the unique product of primes). In 1807, he became director of the Gottingen Observatory. He established the first observatory dedicated to the study of terrestrial magnetism, and calculated the location of the magnetic poles of the Earth from geometic observations. The unit of magnetic flux, the gauss, is named in his honor. In 1833, he constructed an electric telegraph. At 62, he taught himself Russian.

See also:
♦ Piazzi, Giuseppe ♦ Leverrier, Urbain Jean Joseph ♦ Adams, John Couch


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