Famous Mathematicians

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An Alexandrian mathematician, Diophantus is sometimes called the “father of algebra.” He is best known for a series of books that deal with solving algebraic equations, called Arithmetica, many of which are considered lost. He was known to live in Alexandria, Egypt sometime between 200 and 298 A.D., though little is known about his life. Many scholars believe Diophantus was Greek, while others suggest his roots may trace back to Egypt, or Babylon.


Euclid was a Greek Mathematician, and is considered the “father of geometry.” His book Elements is the most successful mathematics book in history. In addition to geometric results, Elements also deals with number theory, prime numbers, and Euclid’s algorithm for finding the greatest common divisor for a set of numbers. Euclid flourished in Alexandria, Egypt, sometime around 300 B.C.

George Pólya

George Polya was a Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University. He was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1887 and died in Palo Alto, U.S.A. in 1985. He worked in many areas of mathematics including series, number theory, and probability. His book How to Solve It provides methods for solving any number of problems, not just in mathematics. The George Polya Award was established in 1976 by the Mathematics Association of America for “articles of expository excellence published in the College Mathematics Journal."


Fibonacci, also known as Leonardo da Pisa, was born in Pisa in 1175 A.D. He is best known for the Fibonacci sequence, and the golden section, or golden ratio. These terms appear in the bestselling novel by Dan Brown entitled The Da Vinci Code, which later became a hit movie starring Tom Hanks. The Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio are connected in the book and movie to the pentagram, as a means of decoding a secret message.


A Greek philosopher, Pythagoras was known to have made important advancements in not only mathematics, but astronomy and music theory as well. He lived from about 569 – 475 B.C. and is best known for his Pythagorean Theorem. Though the theorem was known to the Babylonians 1000 years earlier, Pythagoras has been credited for proving it, hence the term the Pythagorean Theorem. The Pythagorean Theorem is one of the most important theorems in geometry, and can relate to Euclidean geometry and the three sides of a right triangle.

René Descartes

A French philosopher, Rene Descartes is known for his application of algebra to geometry, from which is derived Cartesian Geometry. He was a contemporary of Galileo and lived from 1596 to 1650, when he died in Stockholm. He is often considered the “Father of Modern Philosophy” and the “Father of Modern Mathematics” in which his influence includes the Cartesian Coordinate system used in plane geometry and algebra. He is also considered a key figure in Scientific Revolution.

Evariste Galois

Evariste Galois was a French mathematician who lived from 1811 to 1832, when he died in France at age 20 from wounds suffered in a duel. In his short life he made important discoveries in the theory of polynomial equations and laid the groundwork for Galois Theory, a branch of abstract algebra. He was a political activist in a time of political turmoil in France, but continued to return to mathematics throughout his short life.

Carl Gauss

Carl Gauss was a German mathematician and child prodigy who lived from 1777 to 1855. He worked in both mathematics and physics, influencing a number of areas of work including number theory, analysis, differential geometry, geodesy, magnetism, astronomy, and optics. He was known to be very precise in his work, insisting on a complete proof of any result before he would publish his findings. He was very interested in electric and magnetic phenomena, invented the first electric telegraph, and concerned himself with the study of topology, which had not been developed at the time, though Gauss predicted it would have great importance in mathematics.

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Victoria Rodlin
California State University, Fullerton


Victoria Rodlin
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