(April 29, 1854 – July 17, 1912)
Intuitive and creative, Henri Poincaré is the greatest mathematician who lived into the 20th century. While still a kid, his schoolteacher nicknamed him “The Math Monster”, after realizing his great aptitude. He would go on to win the Concours Général competition in France, before taking the math world by the storm. His works ramified all branches of mathematics, although those pertaining to Homology and Algebraic Topology made more headlines. As with other math geniuses before him, Poincaré dabbled into physics: helping to strengthen the bases of several concepts. He also founded the Chaos Theory, and advanced many aspects of Differential Equations before coming-up with his own Poincaré Conjecture in 1904. Nobody was able to resolve that conjecture until 2002, when Grigori Perelman proved it and became entitled to the first ever million dollar prize in mathematics. After building on the wonderful works of Bernhard Riemann, Henri Poincaré anticipated the Minkowski’s Space, with which he lent geometrical support to Albert Einstein’s Relativity Theory. He is also credited with clarifying (as a paradox) the mass-energy equivalence of Special Relativity. His credibility (alongside others’) helped facilitate early acceptance of the theory. Despite his notorious absentmindedness, he was innovative and extremely productive. The fact that he excelled in all branches of mathematics made him one of the last tours-de-force. Apart from the Relativity Theory, Henri Poincaré’s works helped (and are still helping) to advance many areas of science and technology. A lunar crater and an asteroid are among the many things named after him.