10 Greatest Mathematicians of all Time

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10 Greatest Mathematicians of all Time

#10 Pythagoras of Samos

Pythagoras of Samos was known as the “Father of Modern Mathematics.” He lived around 570 to 495 B.C, in Greece, and was the founder of the “Pythagorean Cult.” This group of scholars was the first to actively study and advance mathematics. Pythagoras is obviously credited for the Pythagorean Theorem, but some say it was actually one of his students who should have received the acknowledgement. The Pythagorean Theorem has played a large part in modern measurement and technical equipment through the use of right triangles. Pythagoras was very important to the development of geometry and the study of mathematics as a worthwhile endeavor.


#9 Andrew Wiles

Andrew Wiles | Royal Society

Andrew Wiles got his start in mathematics as a young Einstein impersonator. (Just kidding!) Actually, he is best known for his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. He was born in 1953 in Great Britain and is still living there today. The story goes that he basically locked himself in his attic for 7 years in order to formulate the solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem, even though he was married and had children. Then, when it was found that his solution contained an error, he returned to his “fortress of solitude” for another year before the solution was accepted.

#8a Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton is a well-known, all around genius in science and mathematics. Everyone knows about how he discovered gravity, right? Well, if you don’t remember, maybe the picture above will refresh your memory. Newton lived from 1642 to 1727 in England and is best known for his development of the Laws of Motion.

#8b Wilhelm Leibniz


Wilhelm Leibniz was born in Germany in 1646, and other than his gorgeous curls, he was well known for his contributions to what would become our first computers. He also introduced modern standard notation and made considerable contributions to topology.

#7 Leonardo Fibonacci

Leonardo Fibonacci was born in Italy in 1170, but spent his childhood in North Africa. As an adult he spent most his life travelling the Arab world and bringing their ideas to the “Western” world. The “Fibonacci Series,” which has become an important part of biological sciences, was known to Indian mathematicians since 200 B.C. Leonardo Fibonacci shared this idea with the rest of the world. He also contributed greatly to the introduction of Arabic numbering (the system we use today) that replaced the old Roman Numeral system.

#6 Alan Turing


Alan Turing lived from 1912 to 1954 in Great Britain. He was best known as a computer scientist and cryptanalyst. For those of you who are wondering what a cryptanalyst is, it’s a person who analyzes codes. In fact, Turing’s code breaking eventually aided in cracking the German Enigma Encryptions, which ultimately helped to win World War II. As a computer scientist, he developed the “Turing Test” that is used to evaluate a computer’s intelligence. In his spare time, he also tested an early chess program by playing the part of the machine!

#5 Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes was not only a mathematician, he was also a physicist and philosopher. He provided the foundation for modern calculus and developed “Cartesian” Geometry involving the x-, y-plane. His contributions made it possible for mathematicians and engineers to calculate distances between 2 points without the use of a measuring device. He also introduced the use of superscripts to expresspowers.

#4 Euclid

 Euclid lived around 300 B.C in Greece and is known as the “Father of Geometry.” He was the author of Elements, one of the greatest mathematical works in history. He is credited with the construction of logical proof of theorems and conjectures. So, for those of you who remember writing proofs in high school geometry class, you have “Father Euclid” to thank for that!

Euclid and Proofs

Below is an example of the beginning of a proof.


#3 G.F. Bernhard Riemann


Want to win a million dollars? All you have to do is prove the Riemann Hypothesis! The Riemann hypothesis was developed by Bernhard Riemann. It is an extremely complex problem on the distribution of primes. Since most codes are based on prime numbers, solving this problem could lead to more advanced code breaking. Riemann was born in Germany in 1826 to a poor family. He lived to be 40 years old, but his work was largely ignored for 50 years, because there were few mathematicians that could understand it. There are now a wide range of theorems bearing his name, including Riemannian Geometry, Riemannian Surfaces and the Riemann Integral. On the next page is a copy of his famous hypothesis if you are interested in getting started on solving it to win the $1,000,000 prize. Good luck!

$1,000,000 Prize


#2 Carl Friedrich Gauss

Carl Friedrich Gauss lived from 1777 to 1855 in Germany. He was a child prodigy and is known as the “Prince of Mathematics.” He was well-known for his outstanding mathematical ability. There is a famous story from his childhood that you will want to watch in the video on the next page…it’s quite interesting! Gauss proved the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra and introduced the Gaussian gravitational constant in physics before age 24. He also developed the bell-curve, or normal, distribution used in statistics.

Add 1 to 100

How quickly do you think you could add the numbers 1 to 100 without the use of a calculator?

Click here to watch a short video about how quickly Gauss did it when he was a young boy.

#1 Leonhard Euler

And last, but not least, we have Leonhard Euler who was born in Switzerland in 1707. He is known by most as the greatest mathematician ever. His primary contribution was the introduction of mathematical notation, such as, functions, trigonometry, logarithms, sigma notation(Σ), imaginary numbers and pi(π). He continued to develop calculus, topology, number theory, analysis and graph theory. He is also well known for solving the Seven Bridges of Konigsberg problem on the next page. Technically, he didn’t really solve it, he just proved that it couldn’t be solved. So, no million-dollar prize for you there.

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