Google Doodle honours Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss – “one of the greatest mathematicians of all time”

In the world of mathematics, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss is a legend and today’s Google Doodle goes some way in honouring his achievements. 

Google Doodle honours Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss  -

Dubbed, by some, as The Prince of Mathematicians, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (whose surname is spelt Gauß in his native German) was was born on this day in 1777 and died at the age of 78.

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss

His parents were poor and despite his mother being illiterate, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss has been referred to as a child prodigy, having reportedly calculated how to add up all the numbers from 1 to 100 by the age of eight. In particular, he determined that by splitting the numbers into two groups (1 to 50, and 51 to 100), he could add them together vertically.

 One of his first, and most significant, mathematical findings was made at the age of just 15 when he discovered a polygon with 17 sides, which became known as a heptadecagon, could be formed using a ruler and compass alone. This had stumped mathematicians for some 2,000 years, since the Ancient Greeks had only been able to show this method as being possible for shapes with up to 15 sides. What’s more, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss established a formula to find all polygons that could be produced using a ruler and compass. In total, there are 31 such shapes ranging from a three-side polygon up to a shape that has 

4,294,967,295 sides.

This shape is one of the images included in today’s Google Doodle and featured on Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss’ tombstone, on the mathematician’s request.

Five years later, in his doctoral thesis which was eventually posted at the age of just 21, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss attempted to prove one of the fundamental rules of algebra and three years after his thesis, he revealed he had calculated the orbit of the asteroid Ceres.

Ceres was spotted at the start of the 19th Century by Italian astronmer Giuseppe Piazzi before he lost sight of it following an illness. Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss used maths to not only rediscover Ceres, but also showed its orbit was almost circular “like a planet.” Ceres was the first astronomical body to be classified as an asteroid, and is now referred to as a dwarf planet in the orbit of Neptune. Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss’ work also helped pave the way for breakthroughs into the study of planets and their orbits. As a result, a telescope and a planet also feature on today’s Google Doodle. 

By 1831, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss began working with physics professor Wilhelm Weber and the pair was fundamental in the work of magnetisk, as well as laws in electricity. From this partnership and research came Gauss’s Law, a mathematical law which looked at how electric charge moved around an electric field. They produced the first electromechanical telegraph in 1833. 

Towards the end of his life,  Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss became a member of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands and died in 1855, following a heart attack. .

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