(December 10, 1804 – February 18, 1851)
A child prodigy, Jacobi was delayed from university matriculation because he was too young. He would later become the first Jew to obtain a math professorial chair in Germany. And within a few years, he established himself as one of 19th century’s most outstanding mathematicians. His expertise spanned across a wide range of fields that included Complex Analysis, Number Theory and Algebra. A prolific researcher, Jacobi’s publications frequently featured in Crelle’s Journal. Alongside Henrik Abel, he was a pioneer of the Theory of Elliptic Functions, as well as a discoverer of several Theta Functions. Their impressive (but somehow competitive) works here reinvigorated the then aging Adrien-Marie Legendre. Therewithal, Peter Dirichlet later called him the greatest Berlin Academy’s member since Joseph-Louis Lagrange. Jacobi’s most notable exploits in mathematical physics were in dynamics. Worthy of praise are his game-changing research on Partial Differential Equations, as well as how he applied them to the problems of dynamics. Chief among these applications is the Hamilton-Jacobi Equation, which is vital in identifying conserved quantities for mechanical systems. Till today, this Hamilton-Jacobi Equation remains the only mechanical formulation in which the motion of a particle could be represented as a wave. It relates to Schroedinger’s Equation; and is thus regarded as the “closest approach” of classical mechanics to quantum mechanics. Among Jacobi’s illustrious students is Paul Gordan (“The King of Invariant Theory” who supervised Emmy Noether’s doctorate). In addition to several other honors, he is the eponym of the 68-kilometer-wide Jacobi lunar impact crater.