Leonhard Euler is seldom remembered as one of the Enlightenment greats, but he should be. His discoveries changed the course of mathematics forever, and 300 years after his birth his ideas continue to resonate in classrooms and laboratories.
Who is the greatest mathematician of all time? In 1937, Eric Temple Bell, the most widely read historian and biographer of mathematics, placed Archimedes, Isaac Newton, and Karl Friedrich Gauss at the top of the list, adding, “It is not for ordinary mortals to attempt to arrange [these three] in order of merit.” This judgment, widely known among mathematicians, stirred a protest in 1997 from Charlie Marion and William Dunham in Mathematics Magazine. The protest was in eight stanzas of verse, of which the fourth and fifth read:
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John Derbyshire is a freelance writer, novelist, and commentator living in New York. His 2003 book Prime Obsession was awarded the Mathematical Association of America’s Euler Book Prize for “an outstanding book about mathematics.”more from this author >>