Monday, November 11, 2013

10.  The Santa Maria

Santa Maria
Though less than 70 feet long and by all accounts a slow and hideous vessel, few can deny the fame the tiny Spanish boat  achieved when she brought Christopher Columbus to the new world.
While Columbus has acquired a bad rap of late for his brutality as governor of Hispaniola and other little foibles he was famous for, no one can deny his extraordinary seamanship or his courage in making the crossing not just once, but four times during his lifetime. Unfortunately, the sturdy little Santa Maria would not be making a repeat journey, as she ran aground on Christmas day, 1492, and was salvaged for her wood (which, interesting enough, went into the construction of another ship originally called La Navidad—Christmas—because the wreck occurred on Christmas Day).
While the original is long gone, no fewer than four replicas of the ship have been built since, all of them capable of putting to sea. Unfortunately, none of them are exact duplicates as no records of the ship’s original construction exist, resulting in a number of different configurations.

9. C.S.S. Hunley

This early excuse for a submarine proved to be far more dangerous to her own crews than she was to the Union Navy, but she was to start a revolution in naval engineering that remains with us to this day. Built by the Confederates in 1863 specifically to sink Union ships then barricading Southern ports, she sank twice while being tested, killing 13 of her crew (including her designer, H.L. Hunley) in the process. Finally ready for her first combat test, on the evening of February 17, 1864, the Hunley, which never seemed to run out of men eager to serve on her despite the generally suicidal nature of doing so, snuck up on the Union sloop Housatonic and buried a spar torpedo in her side.
Remarkably, the torpedo detonated as planned and the Housatonic sank, giving her the dubious distinction of being the first ship in history to be sunk by a submarine. Tragically, the little boat didn’t make it back to dock but sank for the third and last time that evening for unknown reasons, taking her entire eight-man crew down once again.
After sitting on the bottom of Charleston Harbor for the next 136 years, she was finally located and raised in August of 2000 to great fanfare. The remarkably well preserved hulk now sits in a specially designed tank awaiting conservation.

8.  U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia (aka Merrimack)

U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia
While the hours-long battle fought between these two behemoths off Hampton Roads, Virginia in March of 1862 was relatively unspectacular and ended in a draw, it may have been one of the most important battles in naval history in that it was the first time two ships made predominantly of iron rather than wood ever engaged in battle. The Union-built Monitor—derisively called a “cheesbox on a raft” (which proved to be a fairly accurate description)—also had the distinction of being the first ship to possess a rotating gun turret, changing the course of naval warship design for the next century.
The interesting thing about the Confederate ironclad was that it was built upon the refloated hull of the Union frigate Merrimack (hence the confusion regarding her name), which had been scuttled when Norfolk fell into the hands of the South in April of 1861. Refloated and fitted with massive iron plates, she not only proved to be impenetrable to cannon fire, but a dangerous weapon the South used to sink a pair of traditional wooden Union warships a day earlier. Neither ship fought again or survived the year, however; the Virginia would be blown up to prevent her from being captured in May of 1862 when Union troops retook Norfolk and the Monitor would be lost in heavy seas off Cape Hatteras on New Year’s eve of that year, taking 16 of her crew down with her.  (Note: The wreck of the Monitor was located off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 1973 and was designated a national landmark.
Since then, many artifacts from the ship, including her turret, cannon, propeller, anchor, engine and some personal effects of the crew—along with the remains of two of her crew—have been recovered and are now on display—minus the bodies—at the Mariners’ Museum of Newport News, Virginia.)

7. U.S.S. Constitution

U.S.S. Constitution
Known as “Old Ironsides” due to her sturdy construction, the oldest still intact ship in America serves as a museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Still afloat after 213 years, she had an usually long service life, having remained in commission on and off between 1797 all the way to the Civil War, after which she was made a training ship and continued sailing periodically right up to her final decommissioning in 1881.
During that time she fought in two conflicts: the First Barbary War—when she battled real pirates—and the War of 1812, during which she distinguished herself by defeating the British frigates HMS Guerriere and HMS Java. It was those engagements that gave her something of a reputation as a ship that could take on the British in a head-to-head fight, which was no small feat when one considers that the Royal Navy was the largest and most powerful in the world at the time. Her fame saved her from the wrecking yard and in 1907 she began serving as a museum ship.
Old Ironsides has been restored, refurbished and otherwise rebuilt so many times, it is said her keel is the only part of the original ship that remains, the rest having being replaced numerous times over the decades. She can still get underway, however, which she proves once a year when she is towed into to Boston Harbor for her “turnaround cruise” designed to ensure she weathers evenly on both sides. She is also a still officially commissioned warship, with a sixty-man crew who are all active duty members of the United States Navy.

6. Battleship U.S.S. Missouri

Battleship U.S.S. Missouri
Though not a participant in any major ship-to-ship sea battles, the “Mighty ‘Mo”, as she became known to her crew, had the distinction of being the vessel upon which the surrender documents that ended World War Two were signed in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. But World War Two wasn’t the only action the massive 45,000 ton battleship was to sea in her lifetime; decommissioned after the war, she was reactivated and sent to fight during the Korean War, and again in 1984, when she became part of Ronald Reagan’s 600-ship fleet plan.
She even saw service in the First Persian Gulf War in 1991, when she lobbed cruise missiles and 16-inch rounds from her massive guns against Iraqi targets in Kuwait. Today she sits tied up serenely at Pearl Harbor, where she serves as a museum and war memorial. Interestingly, she is moored just a few hundred yards from the wreck of the Battleship Arizona (see no. 3), making it possible to see from her decks both the place the war started and the place that it ended at the same time.

5. HMS Victory

HMS Victory
No single ship serves as a better symbol for the power that was the Royal Navy during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century than does Lord Nelson’s venerable and, indeed, almost legendary, flagship. One of the largest wooden warships ever built, the ship not only saw considerable action in the last decades of the eighteenth century fighting both the French and Spanish fleets, but she became the stuff of legends at the pivotal battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where Nelson was to be mortally wounded but not before besting the combined French and Spanish fleet and effectively saving England from a sea-borne invasion.
Originally slated to be broken up shortly after the Napoleonic Wars ended, she was saved, the story goes, by the wife of the First Sea Lord, who, upon learning that the vessel that had served so long and gallantly was to be delegated to the wrecker’s yard, broke into tears and demanded that he rescind the order. Being no fool—and perhaps in a well-advised effort at maintaining marital bliss—the man did exactly that and the ship served for the next century as a pier-side training school. Heavily restored in 1922 by the British government, she now serves as a museum in Portsmouth, England, making her one of the oldest ships still afloat in the world.

4. Battleship U.S.S. Maine

Battleship U.S.S. Maine
Some ships become famous not for what they did, but for what they represented. In this case, the battleship Maine (a tiny thing compared to the later behemoths that were to carry the title of battleship) became a rallying point for a nation intent on war. Anchored in the shallow waters of Havana harbor late on the evening of February 15, 1898, the ship was torn in two by a mysterious explosion and sank in a matter of minutes, killing all but 89 of her 355-man crew.
Though the cause of the explosion was never determined (some historians and naval engineers believe it may have been an accidental detonation of her magazines by a coal bin fire), it was immediately suspected to have been an intentional act of sabotage—probably by a pre-placed mine—sending the country into a war frenzy that would, in the next few months, propel the United States into a short and spectacularly successful war with Spain.
While Spanish complicity in the incident has never been proven (and would have been counter-productive to the Spanish in any case), the battle cry “Remember the Maine” would remain a popular and long-remembered one for many decades afterwards. As for the ship itself, in 1911 what was left of her was raised from the mud of Havana Harbor where she had become a hazard to navigation, towed out to the open sea, and scuttled with full military honors—a fitting end to a ship that did so little but caused so much trouble.

3. German Battleship Bismarck

German Battleship Bismarck
Perhaps no ship struck as much fear into the heart of the British Navy in the spring of 1941 than the massive German dreadnought Bismarck which, at 823 feet and with a top speed of 30 knots, was the largest and fastest warship then afloat. Breaking out of her Baltic haven in late May, 1941 intend on decimating the ragged and besieged British merchant fleet keeping the British Isles afloat, the ship became the subject of the largest naval hunt in Royal Navy history and one that was to cost the British dearly.
Engaged by the British battle cruiser HMS Hood and new battleship HMS Prince of Wales off Iceland in the early morning hours of May 24, after a brief but vicious battle the Hood exploded and sank, taking down all but three of her 1,418-man crew, and left the Prince of Wales damaged and limping for home. Damaged herself a day later by British aerial torpedoes, the wounded battleship made a run for the French coast for repairs, only to be chased down by a pair of British battleships, the Rodney and King George V, whose combined firepower finally managed to send Hitler’s proud but battered warship to the bottom—along with all but 200 of her 2,200-man crew—after a two-hour barrage.
There the infamous warship remained undisturbed until it was located by Robert Ballard (the same man who had found the Titanic three years earlier) in 1989 and carefully examined. Even then the venerable ship had a story to tell, for it appeared that despite the heavy damage it endured during its final battle, it was still largely intact, suggesting that she had been scuttled rather than sunk by the British after all, giving her, even in death, the last laugh.

2. Battleship U.S.S. Arizona

Battleship U.S.S. Arizona
Few ships illicit the sort of emotion among American veterans as does the name Arizona. A World War One era battle wagon with an undistinguished career, her active life in World War Two lasted a mere fifteen minutes before she was sunk by a well-aimed Japanese bomb that ignited her forward magazine and tore her in two during the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. The “unlucky shot”—a one-in-million hole in one—killed 1,177 men out of her crew of 1,400—including her captain and an admiral—and left her a blazing wreck that was to burn for days.*
Too badly damaged to be salvageable (she was one of only three ships sunk during the attack that was never repaired) the ship remains there to this day as a war memorial, where she is visited by literally millions of people every year. Considering how famous the ship is today, it is interesting that few Americans knew about the Arizona’s fiery fate until years later due to wartime censorship, and that she lay largely forgotten in the shallow waters of Battleship Row for decades after the attack. It wasn’t until the 1960s that she became a symbol of American resolve and sacrifice and acquired the mystique—along with a simple but powerful memorial that straddles her remains—that she enjoys today.

1. British Luxury Liner RMS Titanic

Easily the most famous ship in history, this luxury liner was designed to showcase mankind’s technological brilliance but instead only illustrated his hubris. The largest and fastest passenger ship of its time, the British White Star liner left England on April 10, 1912 on its maiden voyage to New York, only to strike an iceberg five days later and sink.
While most would imagine two hours would be plenty of time to evacuate the nearly 2,300 souls onboard, the ship had only half the lifeboats needed, dooming some 1,500 passengers and crew to a watery grave in the middle of the icy North Atlantic. The sinking sent shockwaves through the maritime community, resulting in wholesale changes in regulations mandating the number of life boats every vessel was required to carry and making other much needed safety improvements. Eventually the ship’s name became synonymous with avarice, indifference, and class privilege (most of the lost having been passengers from steerage) and holds a mystique that, if anything, has only grown over time.
The ship was rediscovered three miles below the surface of the North Atlantic in 1985, and has since then become the inspiration for a multitude of documentaries as well as the backdrop to the most successful movie of 1999. It could truly be said that with the Titanic, humanity learned a hard lesson that continues to pay dividends to this day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

10Flores Giant Rat

giant rat
Humans are easily frightened by the tiniest animals: Cockroaches, spiders, and mice seem specifically designed to scare the bejeezus out of us. Some grown men would even prefer to wrestle a bear or take on a pack of coyotes than let a mouse run up the leg of their pants.
These men should probably avoid the island of Flores, Indonesia. It’s home to the Flores Giant Rat, which has the single virtue of being too large to fit up your pants leg. This isn’t the kind of rodent to be restrained by mouse traps: its body can reach 45 centimeters (18 in) in length, and that’s before you add its 75-centimeter (30 in) tail. Then the rat can exceed 1.2 meters (4 ft).
This really is the stuff of nightmares, but at least most of us are physically big enough to fight off a giant rat.  Unfortunately, the rats wouldn’t have been so easy to shrug off for our ancestors: Homo floresiensis, who shared Flores Island with them around 12,000 years ago. At around 1 meter (3 ft) tall, these early humans would have come face to face with rats frighteningly close to them in size.
Luckily for the H. floresiensis community, Flores giant rats are believed to be vegetarians.


The Nuralagus rex was a type of prehistoric rabbit, which developed into a giant due to its predator-free habitat on the Mediterranean island of Minorca. The largest specimens could have weighed around 22 kilograms (50 lbs), which is outrageous when you compare it to the 1.8 kilograms (4 lbs) of the largest modern rabbits.
The tiny skull of the otherwise-giant rabbit suggests that its capacities for sight and hearing were significantly impaired compared to those of normal rabbits. This is most likely another result of the lack of predators on the island. With nothing around to kill it, there was no need to develop or maintain the traits necessary for competition and survival. As you can imagine, the extraordinary size of the nuralagus meant that it didn’t exactlyhop around the island. It instead plodded quite slowly, more like a sloth than a rabbit.

8Solomon Islands Skink

The Solomon Islands skink is unusual in many ways apart from the fact that it can reach nearly 75 centimeters (30 in) in length—three times larger than the average skink size. Unlike most reptiles, which usually produce offspring by laying eggs, the female Solomon Islands skink carries its young internally. When the baby skinks are born, they are sometimes already half the size of their mother.
The giant skinks are sometimes referred to as “monkey-tailed skinks” because their tails have the unusual ability to grasp the branches of trees. But this ability comes at a price: The Solomon Islands skink is one of the few lizards unable to detach its tail at the approach of a predator. Lacking this advantage, it will often hiss and bite to defend itself.

7Chappell Island Tiger Snake

At 2.4 meters (8 ft) in length, the Chappell Island tiger snake is the largest of all tiger snakes. For centuries, it has shared Mount Chappell Island, Australia, with a large number of local muttonbirds and absolutely no serious predators. Since it’s the only type of snake found on the island, it essentially has a monopoly over the muttonbird chicks, which it devours with relish every breeding season. The snake can eat so many hapless chicks in one six-week period that it often spends the rest of the year digesting its victims.
Like many Australian snakes, the Chappell Island tiger snake is highly venomous, and its bite can be lethal to any human foolish enough to interfere in the muttonbird business.

6Madagascar Giant Pill-Millipede

The giant pill-millipede of Madagascar is known by scientists asSphaerotheriida, but locals have dubbed it more accurately as “star poo.” Though they look like normal millipedes in their relaxed state, they have the ability to roll themselves into an armored ball at the first sign of danger. Once they retreat into their armored plates, almost nothing can force them to unroll against their will.
The largest pill-millipedes can reach the size of a baseball. Unlike centipedes but like other millipedes, the giant pill-millipedes are non-venomous, and they live on a diet of decaying plant matter.

5Saint Helena Giant Earwig

“Absolutely horrifying” is probably a reasonable description of the Saint Helena earwig, which can reach nearly 10 centimeters (4 in) in length. First discovered in 1798, the giant earwig has been inhabiting nightmares ever since.
The folk belief that earwigs are capable of crawling into human ears and eating brains is now well-known as a myth, but if you still harbor any fears, then rest assured: The Saint Helena earwig is actually too enormous to even fit in your ear.
Believe it or not, the hideous exterior of the Saint Helena earwig actually conceals a warm, loving, and tender interior. The giant species is renowned among earwig researchers for its unusually advanced levels of maternal care. After the eggs have been laid, the mother frequently cleans them to protect them from fungi and is known to defend them from predators.
The giant earwigs, like Napoleon in his later years, are endemic to the tiny Atlantic island of Saint Helena. There have been no sightings since about 1967, leading many to believe that extinction may have occurred as a result of predation from the introduced centipede.

4The Dodo

The dodo—a kind of gigantic, flightless pigeon—is not quite so terrifying as other entries in this list. But dodos are a still a very good example of island gigantism at work. Isolated for thousands of years on the small Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and completely lacking any major predators, dodos were completely fearless of humans.
The story of human contact with dodos is a famous one. When Dutch sailors arrived in the 16th century, they found the large, plump, overfed birds rather laughable. Despite the meek, trusting nature of the dodos, they were routinely butchered for food by humans, and their flightlessness made themeasy prey for even the laziest of introduced predators.
This slaughter, coupled with the fact that the dodos couldn’t reverse the evolutionary trend of thousands of years in a matter of decades, led to the species being exterminated by the end of the 17th century.

3Galapagos Islands Giant Tortoise

Giant tortoises mating
The giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador have the potential to outlive any other vertebrate. They can routinely live for over 100 years, and one of them held on until the ripe age of 152. They’re also true giants of the tortoise world: Some subspecies can reach 250 kilograms (550 lbs) and over 1.5 meters (5 ft) in length.
At the time of Charles Darwin’s famous visit, there were 14 different subspecies of giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands. Each kind of tortoise originated from a single ancestor, but their evolution began to diverge after they found themselves on different islands with different challenges and began to evolve accordingly.
Giant tortoises display a fascinating form of symbiotic behavior when it comes to ridding themselves of parasites such as ticks. Whenever they’re in need of pest removal, they stretch up on their hind legs, allowing passing birds to peck away all the ticks.
The number of subspecies has now dwindled to 10 after centuries of hunting, poaching, and the introduction of domestic animals. Taken together, these things probably killed more than 100,000 giant tortoises. But thanks to the increased efforts of conservationists, only 120 of the 15,000-strong population have been killed by poachers since 1990.

2Giant Fijian Long-Horned Beetle

The giant Fijian long-horned beetle is the second-largest beetle in the world, reaching an extraordinary body length (by beetle standards) of 15 centimeters (7 in). The beetle lives a simple life in the trees of Fiji on a diet of plant matter, but anyone who is generally creeped out by insects will still find cause to be uneasy: The horns which give the beetle its name can also reach lengths of more than 12 centimeters (6 in), meaning that its horns are often nearly as long as its gigantic body.
The larvae take 12 years to reach their full adult size. Many of them don’t survive that vulnerable period, since the larvae are sought out as a rare delicacy by Fijian villagers. Several tribes consider them to be sacred, and only the village high chief is permitted to eat them.
But the few long-horned beetles which make it into adulthood become truly fearsome: “Powerful jaws” and “very loud whirring noise when flying” are just some of the phrases insectophobes don’t like to hear. Upon being disturbed, the beetles will also respond with an alarming hissing noise.

1Elephant Bird

Christie's specialist James Hyslop holds a chicken egg next to a pre-17th century, sub-fossilised Elephant Bird egg in London
The aptly named elephant birds of Madagascar were around 3 meters (10 ft) tall and could weigh 400 kilograms (900 lbs). If you have ever seen an emu or ostrich and been amazed by its size, then you’ll understand how early visitors to Madagascar must have felt when they caught sight of these creatures before the species died off in the late 17th century.
Elephant birds were probably the largest birds ever to have lived. Even their eggs were a full meter (3 ft) in circumference, and their fearsome appearance gave rise to the legendary “Roc” of Arabian folk tales. This fabled creature was thought to consume elephants, but such a rumor says more about the effect of the elephant birds on travelers’ imaginations than their actual feeding habits.
The real elephant bird was more heavily built than the more familiar moa of New Zealand, and its eggs were even larger.
Pythagoras of Samos
Greek Mathematician Pythagoras is considered by some to be one of the first great mathematicians. Living around 570 to 495 BC, in modern day Greece, he is known to have founded the Pythagorean cult, who were noted by Aristotle to be one of the first groups to actively study and advance mathematics. He is also commonly credited with the Pythagorean Theorem within trigonometry. However, some sources doubt that is was him who constructed the proof (Some attribute it to his students, or Baudhayana, who lived some 300 years earlier in India). Nonetheless, the effect of such, as with large portions of fundamental mathematics, is commonly felt today, with the theorem playing a large part in modern measurements and technological equipment, as well as being the base of a large portion of other areas and theorems in mathematics. But, unlike most ancient theories, it played a bearing on the development of geometry, as well as opening the door to the study of mathematics as a worthwhile endeavor. Thus, he could be called the founding father of modern mathematics.
Andrew Wiles
The only currently living mathematician on this list, Andrew Wiles is most well known for his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem: That no positive integers, a, b and c can satisfy the equation a^n+b^n=c^n For n greater then 2. (If n=2 it is the Pythagoras Formula). Although the contributions to math are not, perhaps, as grand as other on this list, he did ‘invent’ large portions of new mathematics for his proof of the theorem. Besides, his dedication is often admired by most, as he quite literally shut himself away for 7 years to formulate a solution. When it was found that the solution contained an error, he returned to solitude for a further year before the solution was accepted. To put in perspective how ground breaking and new the math was, it had been said that you could count the number of mathematicians in the world on one hand who, at the time, could understand and validate his proof. Nonetheless, the effects of such are likely to only increase as time passes (and more and more people can understand it).
Isaac Newton and Wilhelm Leibniz
I have placed these two together as they are both often given the honor of being the ‘inventor’ of modern infinitesimal calculus, and as such have both made monolithic contributions to the field. To start, Leibniz is often given the credit for introducing modern standard notation, notably the integral sign. He made large contributions to the field of Topology. Whereas all round genius Isaac Newton has, because of the grand scientific epic Principia, generally become the primary man hailed by most to be the actual inventor of calculus. Nonetheless, what can be said is that both men made considerable vast contributions in their own manner.
Leonardo Pisano Blgollo
Blgollo, also known as Leonardo Fibonacci, is perhaps one of the middle ages greatest mathematicians. Living from 1170 to 1250, he is best known for introducing the infamous Fibonacci Series to the western world. Although known to Indian mathematicians since approximately 200 BC, it was, nonetheless, a truly insightful sequence, appearing in biological systems frequently. In addition, from this Fibonacci also contributed greatly to the introduction of the Arabic numbering system. Something he is often forgotten for.
Haven spent a large portion of his childhood within North Africa he learned the Arabic numbering system, and upon realizing it was far simpler and more efficient then the bulky Roman numerals, decided to travel the Arab world learning from the leading mathematicians of the day. Upon returning to Italy in 1202, he published his Liber Abaci, whereupon the Arabic numbers were introduced and applied to many world situations to further advocate their use. As a result of his work the system was gradually adopted and today he is considered a major player in the development of modern mathematics.
Alan Turing
Alan Turing Photo
Computer Scientist and Cryptanalyst Alan Turing is regarded my many, if not most, to be one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century. Having worked in the Government Code and Cypher School in Britain during the second world war, he made significant discoveries and created ground breaking methods of code breaking that would eventually aid in cracking the German Enigma Encryptions. Undoubtedly affecting the outcome of the war, or at least the time-scale.
After the end of the war he invested his time in computing. Having come up with idea of a computing style machine before the war, he is considered one of the first true computer scientists. Furthermore, he wrote a range of brilliant papers on the subject of computing that are still relevant today, notably on Artificial Intelligence, on which he developed the Turing test which is still used to evaluate a computers ‘intelligence’. Remarkably, he began in 1948 working with D. G. Champernowne, an undergraduate acquaintance on a computer chess program for a machine not yet in existence. He would play the ‘part’ of the machine in testing such programs.
René Descartes
French Philosopher, Physicist and Mathematician Rene Descartes is best known for his ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ philosophy. Despite this, the Frenchman, who lived 1596 to 1650, made ground breaking contributions to mathematics. Alongside Newton and Leibniz, Descartes helped provide the foundations of modern calculus (which Newton and Leibniz later built upon), which in itself had great bearing on the modern day field. Alongside this, and perhaps more familiar to the reader, is his development of Cartesian Geometry, known to most as the standard graph (Square grid lines, x and y axis, etc.) and its use of algebra to describe the various locations on such. Before this most geometers used plain paper (or another material or surface) to preform their art. Previously, such distances had to be measured literally, or scaled. With the introduction of Cartesian Geometry this changed dramatically, points could now be expressed as points on a graph, and as such, graphs could be drawn to any scale, also these points did not necessarily have to be numbers. The final contribution to the field was his introduction of superscripts within algebra to express powers. And thus, like many others in this list, contributed to the development of modern mathematical notation.
Euklid-Von-Alexandria 1
Living around 300BC, he is considered the Father of Geometry and his magnum opus: Elements, is one the greatest mathematical works in history, with its being in use in education up until the 20th century. Unfortunately, very little is known about his life, and what exists was written long after his presumed death. Nonetheless, Euclid is credited with the instruction of the rigorous, logical proof for theorems and conjectures. Such a framework is still used to this day, and thus, arguably, he has had the greatest influence of all mathematicians on this list. Alongside his Elements were five other surviving works, thought to have been written by him, all generally on the topic of Geometry or Number theory. There are also another five works that have, sadly, been lost throughout history.
G. F. Bernhard Riemann
Bernhard Riemann, born to a poor family in 1826, would rise to become one of the worlds prominent mathematicians in the 19th Century. The list of contributions to geometry are large, and he has a wide range of theorems bearing his name. To name just a few: Riemannian Geometry, Riemannian Surfaces and the Riemann Integral. However, he is perhaps most famous (or infamous) for his legendarily difficult Riemann Hypothesis; an extremely complex problem on the matter of the distributions of prime numbers. Largely ignored for the first 50 years following its appearance, due to few other mathematicians actually understanding his work at the time, it has quickly risen to become one of the greatest open questions in modern science, baffling and confounding even the greatest mathematicians. Although progress has been made, its has been incredibly slow. However, a prize of $1 million has been offered from the Clay Maths Institute for a proof, and one would almost undoubtedly receive a Fields medal if under 40 (The Nobel prize of mathematics). The fallout from such a proof is hypothesized to be large: Major encryption systems are thought to be breakable with such a proof, and all that rely on them would collapse. As well as this, a proof of the hypothesis is expected to use ‘new mathematics’. It would seem that, even in death, Riemann’s work may still pave the way for new contributions to the field, just as he did in life.
Carl Friedrich Gauss
508Px-Bendixen - Carl Friedrich Gauß, 1828
Child prodigy Gauss, the ‘Prince of Mathematics’, made his first major discovery whilst still a teenager, and wrote the incredible Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, his magnum opus, by the time he was 21. Many know Gauss for his outstanding mental ability – quoted to have added the numbers 1 to 100 within seconds whilst attending primary school (with the aid of a clever trick). The local Duke, recognizing his talent, sent him to Collegium Carolinum before he left for Gottingen (at the time it was the most prestigious mathematical university in the world, with many of the best attending). After graduating in 1798 (at the age of 22), he began to make several important contributions in major areas of mathematics, most notably number theory (especially on Prime numbers). He went on to prove the fundamental theorem of algebra, and introduced the Gaussian gravitational constant in physics, as well as much more – all this before he was 24! Needless to say, he continued his work up until his death at the age of 77, and had made major advances in the field which have echoed down through time.
Leonhard Euler
480Px-Leonhard Euler 2
If Gauss is the Prince, Euler is the King. Living from 1707 to 1783, he is regarded as the greatest mathematician to have ever walked this planet. It is said that all mathematical formulas are named after the next person after Euler to discover them. In his day he was ground breaking and on par with Einstein in genius. His primary (if that’s possible) contribution to the field is with the introduction of mathematical notation including the concept of a function (and how it is written as f(x)), shorthand trigonometric functions, the ‘e’ for the base of the natural logarithm (The Euler Constant), the Greek letter Sigma for summation and the letter ‘/i’ for imaginary units, as well as the symbol pi for the ratio of a circles circumference to its diameter. All of which play a huge bearing on modern mathematics, from the every day to the incredibly complex.
As well as this, he also solved the Seven Bridges of Koenigsberg problem in graph theory, found the Euler Characteristic for connecting the number of vertices, edges and faces of an object, and (dis)proved many well known theories, too many to list. Furthermore, he continued to develop calculus, topology, number theory, analysis and graph theory as well as much, much more – and ultimately he paved the way for modern mathematics and all its revelations. It is probably no coincidence that industry and technological developments rapidly increased around this time


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