Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Ferdinand Gotthold Max Eisenstein

Ferdinand Gotthold Max Eisenstein was born in Berlin on April 16, 1823. His family was not well off. His father had served in the Prussian army for 8 years and when he returned to civilian life, he moved from the job to job throughout Ferdinand's youth.

From the earliest age, he suffered from bad health as did all his brothers and sisters. He was the only one of the six children to survive past childhood. All of his brothers and sisters died at an early age of meningitis. Eisenstein also suffered through meningitis but was somehow able to survive.

From an early age, he showed a great talent for music. He was able to play the piano and composed songs throughout his short life. When he was 11 years old, his parents sent him to a military academy near Berlin. He hated the discipline and routines and yet it was here that he developed his love for mathematics. One of his teachers taught mathematics by presenting theorems and then asking each student to work alone on the proof. Once a student proved the theorem, the teacher presented the next theorem and asked the student to likewise prove this one. Eisenstein found this approach very enjoyable and had proved 100 elementary theorems in the time that students were expected to solve 11 or 12.

In 1837, at the age of 14, he entered Gymnasium in Berlin where his mathematical talents were recognized by his teachers. By the age of 15, he was going beyond the mathematical curriculum and started studying mathematical books on his own.

In 1842, he purchased a copy of Gauss's Disquisitiones arithmeticae and became fascinated with number theory. When his father moved to England, he was able to meet with Hamilton and in this way was introduced to the ideas of Abel another very famous mathematician who died young.

In 1843, he enrolled at the University of Berlin. During his first year, he was releasing new math articles almost weekly. In 1844, Crelle's Journal published 27 articles, 16 of which were from Eisenstein. In March 1844, Eisenstein met von Humboldt who would become a big sponsor of his. Eisenstein hated to receive grants that were given grudgingly. Through out Eisenstein's life, von Humboldt worked hard to help him get position and funds.

In June 1844, Eisenstein went on a trip to meet Gauss. Gauss had a reputation for being very hard to impress. Eisenstein had sent Gauss some of his papers and Gauss was very impressed. Eisenstein had generalized many of Gauss's results.

In February 1845, Eisenstein received an honorary doctorate thanks to the help of Kummer and Jacobi. He would later be involved with a priority dispute with Jacobi.

In 1847, Eisenstein began to lecture at the University of Berlin. Reimann attended one of these lectures and there is speculation that Eisenstein was very influential on Reimann's famous paper on the Zeta function.

In 1848, there was political unrest in Germany and shots were fired on German soldiers from a house while Eisenstein was there. Eisenstein was arrested. He was later released but his arrest made it more difficult for him to get funds.

Despite these setbacks, Eisenstein continued to publish. In 1851, he was elected to the Gottingen Academy and in 1852, he was elected to the Berlin Academy.

Eisenstein died on October 11, 1852 of pulmonary turbucolosis at the age of 29.

Eisenstein made significant contributions in quadratic forms, generalizing the results of Gauss, higher reciprocity laws that generalized Gauss's quadratic reciprocity result.

Gauss would say that the three most brilliant mathematicians of all time were Archimedes, Newton, and Eisenstein.

The details for this blog were taken from the following sources:

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