Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Gabriel Lamé

Gabriel Lamé was born in Tours, France on July 22, 1795. He entered the Ecole Polytechnic in 1813 and while there, published his first mathematical paper in 1816. He graduated Ecole Polytechnic in 1817 and attended the Ecole de Mines from 1817 to 1820.

In 1820, Lamé and his colleague Emile Clapeyron were invited to come to Russia to teach mathematics. Lamé was appointed professor at the Institut et Corps du Genie des Voies de Communication located in St. Petersburg. He stayed at this position for 12 years and during this time he lectured and wrote papers on a range of subjects in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. It was while in Russia that he would develop his great interest in railroad development.

Lamé returned to Paris in 1832. That year, he became the Chair of Physics at the Ecole Polytechnique. In 1836, he became the Chief Engineer of Mines. He was also extensively involved in the building of railroads from Paris to Versailles and Paris to St. Germain.

He was elected to the Academie de Sciences in 1843 and that same year, he left Ecole Polytechnique to join Sorbonne where he was a professor of mathematics and probability. He became the chair of mathematical physics and probability at Sorbonne in 1851.

In his lifetime, Lamé worked on a range of very advanced topics including: the stability of vaults, design of suspension bridges, elasticity theory, conduction of heat, general theory of curvilinear coordinates, Fermat's Last Theorem for n=7, differential geometry, and number theory.

Outside of France, he was considered the leading French mathematician of his time by many of his contemporaries such as Carl Friedrich Gauss. Within France, his reputation was less bright. Lamé considered his general theory of curvilinear coordinates to be his most important achievement. Still, this contribution was made obsolete by the discovery of more modern methods.


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