(March 1642 – December 5, 1708)
This reposeful preteen prodigy is Japan’s greatest mathematician. He was as well the preeminent science icon during the Tokugawa shogunate (the last era of feudal military governance of Japan: lasting from 1603 to 1868). Some Western publications tagged him “Japan’s Isaac Newton”. Several of these books and journals designate his name as either “Seki Kowa” or “Seki Takakazu”, whereas others simply use “Seki Kowa Takakazu”. As samurai scion, he never failed to wrap his prodigious disposition with courtesy and self-effacement. He singlehandedly reinvented the Wasan, which is traditional Japanese mathematics: so named, in order to distinguish it from the Western-styled maths (which the Japanese refer to as Yosan). He is also credited with developing the Enri, which was Japan’s equivalent of calculus (prior to European ascendancy). It is intriguing that Seki Kowa Takakazu lived in the same period as Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, and the Bernoullis: far away from Europe; yet, worked independently on related problems and discovered similar parameters. His interest in mathematical astronomy saw him contribute to the developments of trigonometry, geometry and algebra. Among his many publications is the highly regarded Hatsubi Sampo, which offered solutions with stringent proofs to various maths problems. In addition to that, he amassed Chinese and Japanese textbooks with which he educated students (like Takebe Kenko) in maths and astronomy. Takakazu is highly revered in today’s Japan; and through his magnificent works remains influential in many parts of the world. Alongside various commemoratives, the 18-kilometer-wide 7483 Sekitakakazu asteroid is named in his honor.