Carl Friedrich Gauss
<person>Gaussian elimination (linear algebra); Gaussian primes (number theory); Gaussian distribution (statistics); Gauss [unit] (electromagnetism); Gaussian curvature (differential geometry); Gaussian quadrature (numerical analysis); Gauss-Bonnet formula (differential geometry); Gauss's identity (hypergeometric functions); Gauss sums (number theory). His favourite area of mathematics was number theory. He conjectured the Prime Number Theorem, pioneered the theory of quadratic forms, proved the quadratic reciprocity theorem, and much more. He was "the first mathematician to use complex numbers in a really confident and scientific way" (Hardy & Wright, chapter 12). He nearly went into architecture rather than mathematics; what decided him on mathematics was his proof, at age 18, of the startling theorem that a regular N-sided polygon can be constructed with ruler and compasses if and only if N is a power of 2 times a product of distinct Fermat primes.
Last updated: 1995-04-10