Geeks and math nerds rejoice! It’s March 14th, which means that it’s officially World Pi Day. Finally! Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159, hence using 3/14 as a day to recognize Pi.
In observation of World Pi Day it makes sense to honor some of our planet’s greatest mathematicians and their outstanding achievements. Although there are many exemplary and highly regarded mathematicians worth recognizing we narrowed the long list down to the top seven based on their historical significance and breadth of work.
Featuring mathematicians by themselves is nice, but adding a freakish fact or odd actuality makes them a little more interesting. Included are book torrents to read and learn more about these famous math heroes. All book are believed to be in the public domain.
Mathematician books for World Pi Day
Sir Isaac Newton
Fact: He purposely stuck a needle (gulp) in his eye.
Newton used himself to experiment on in an effort to better understand how color and optics related to one another. An excerpt from his journal shares:
I tooke a bodkine gh & put it betwixt my eye & [the] bone as neare to [the] backside of my eye as I could: & pressing my eye [with the] end of it (soe as to make [the] curvature a, bcdef in my eye) there appeared severall white darke & coloured circles r, s, t, &c. Which circles were plainest when I continued to rub my eye [with the] point of [the] bodkine, but if I held my eye & [the] bodkin still, though I continued to presse my eye [with] it yet [the] circles would grow faint & often disappeare untill I removed [them] by moving my eye or [the] bodkin.
Fact: He’s referred to the Father of Geometry.
Little is known about Euclid because there are few references to him in history. Despite the lack detail about his personal life his Elements text is considered one of the most powerful mathematic writings well into the 20th century.
Carl Friedrich Gauss
Fact: At the age of three he corrected a mathematical error in his father’s wage calculations.
Not only was Gauss considered to be a child prodigy in the field of math, but he was also a polyglot and creator of a primitive telegraph device in the early 19th century.
Fact: He had 13 children, but only five survived to adulthood.
Euler has appeared on Swiss currency and German, Swiss and Russian postage stamps. On what would have been his 306th birthday, he was honored with a Google doodle.
Joseph Louis Lagrange
Fact: His name is one of 72 inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.
His contributions to the subjects of math and astronomy are acknowledged as major achievements that have paved the way for future generations of students and scholars to build upon.
Fact: During the Holocaust in Europe, she applied for a job to be a teacher, but was denied because she was Jewish.
One of the few female mathematicians, Noether is best known for her significant influences on abstract algebra and theoretical physics. Admired by colleagues for her creativity and knowledge many of them rallied to have her recognized as an equal during a time when women were perceived as inferior despite intellect.
Karl W.T. Weierstrass
Fact: The lunar crater Weierstrass, located on the eastern part of the moon, is name after him.
Sadly, Weierstrass was sick for an extended period of time but was able to publish papers despite his a declining health. He is referred to as the Father of Modern Analysis.
Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and there are many, many other mathematicians that others may prefer over what has been shared. If there’s a favorite that’s missing from the line up let us know in the comments below. Happy World Pi Day!
Photo Credit: Lady BenKo via CC
Sir Isaac Newton via Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin
Carl Friedrich Gauss via By Gottlieb Biermann A. Wittmann (photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Emmy Noether via Brooklyn Museum, CC
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