(April 30, 1777 – February 23, 1855)
Behold the Princeps Mathematicorum. Oh yes, the much-revered Prince of Mathematicians! Even as teenager, this child prodigy unraveled concepts which eluded the masterminds of his era. He took maths to exospheric realm by proving many theorems and reworking several existing solutions; and the rigors of his analyses were astounding. Carl Friedrich Gauss was adept in all things mathematical. He contributed to every area: including mathematical physics. Due to their unparalleled depths and sophistications, his publications were considered abstruse. Smugly, he would liken them to new cathedrals, whose beauties manifest after the scaffoldings have been dismantled. His textbook, Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, became the magnum opus of 19th century maths. But his perfectionistic obsession prevented him from publishing much. Till today, mathematicians lament that Gauss did not publish many of his ideas just because he did not want to purvey any imperfect work: even if the only error is something as irrelevant as a punctuation mark. He was so obsessed with perfection that he urged his children not to pursue mathematics, because he did not want “any other Gauss” to fall short of the exalted heights he attained. Some scholars opined that he might have garnered enough clout, with which to challenge Leonhard Euler for the title of ‘The Greatest Mathematician’, had he published all his know-how. Others argued that he was afraid of erring, deemed Euler’s lead unassailable, and deplored Gauss’ controversial dispositions, (through unsubstantiated precedence-claims over his contemporaries’ published discoveries). The newfangled criticisms notwithstanding, his mathematical prowess was top-notch.