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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Carl Friedrich Gauss and the darkness


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Christian Albrecht Jensen


Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) was a German mathematician and physicist best known for his contributions to algebra, non-Euclidean geometry, statistics and magnetism. Mathematician Morris Kline said,


"The man who was to change the course of mathematics was but six years old when Euler and D'Alembert died in 1783... Gauss is commonly ranked with Archimedes and Newton... all three of these men were as much devoted to physical research as to mathematics." (Mathematics and the Physical World, 1959)


Physicist James Clerk Maxwell said,


"It is to Gauss, to the Magnetic Union and to magnetic observation in general, that we owe our deliverance from that absurd method of estimating forces by a variable standard which prevailed so long even among men of science." (The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, 1890 posthumous)


Mathematician Florian Cajori,


"Some of the discoveries of Abel and Jacobi were anticipated by Gauss... Jacobi concluded that Gauss had thirty years earlier considered the nature and properties of elliptic functions and had discovered their double periodicity." (A History of Mathematics, 1893)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Gauss.




"Dark are the paths which a higher hand allows us to traverse here... let us hold fast to the faith that a finer, more sublime solution of enigmas of earthly life will be present, will become part of us." (Quoted in Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science by Guy Waldo Dunnington)


"When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into the darkness again." (


"If others would but reflect on mathematical truths as deeply and as continuously as I have, they would make my discoveries.' (Quoted in The World of Mathematics J. R. Newman)


"Finally, two days ago, I succeeded - not on account of my hard efforts but by the grace of the Lord. Like a sudden flash of lightning, the riddle was solved. I am unable to say what was the conducting thread that connected what I previously knew with what made my success possible." (Quoted in Mathematical Circles Squared by Howard Eves)




"There are problems to whose solution I would attach an infinitely greater importance than to those of mathematics, for example touching ethics, or our relation to God, or concerning our destiny and our future; but their solution lies wholly beyond us and completely outside the province of science." (Quoted in The World of Mathematics J. R. Newman)


"I scarcely believe that psychology data are present which can be mathematically evaluated. But one cannot know this with certainty, without having made the experiment. God alone is in possession of the mathematical basis of psychic phenomena." (Quoted in Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science by Guy Waldo Dunnington)




"You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length." (


"By explanation the scientist understands nothing except the reduction of the least and simplest basic laws possible, beyond which he cannot go, but must plainly demand them; from them however he deduces the phenomena absolutely completely as necessary." (Quoted in Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science by Guy Waldo Dunnington)