Mini Stories from the Life of Carl Friedrich Gauss

Carl Friedrich Gauss - a child prodigy

In primary school, the teacher tried to occupy pupils by making them add a list of integers from 1 to 100. The young Carl Friedrich Gauss produced the correct answer within seconds. Gauss's method, was that pairwise addition of terms from opposite ends of the list yielded identical intermediate sums: 1 + 100 = 101, 2 + 99 = 101, 3 + 98 = 101, and so on, for a total sum of 50 × 101 = 5050.

Gauss's request to inscribe a heptadecagon on his tombstone

Carl Friedrich Gauss was able to show that any regular polygon with a number of sides which is a Fermat prime can be constructed by compass and straightedge. This was a major discovery in an important field of mathematics; construction problems had occupied mathematicians since the days of the Ancient Greeks. Gauss was so pleased by this result that he requested that a regular heptadecagon be inscribed on his tombstone. The stonemason declined, stating that the difficult construction would essentially look like a circle.

The preserved brain of the Prince of Mathematicians

Carl Friedrich Gauss, known as "the Prince of Mathematicians" died in 1855. His brain was preserved and was studied by Rudolf Wagner (German anatomist and physiologist) who found its weight to be 1,492 grams and the cerebral area equal to 219,588 square millimeters (340.362 square inches). Highly developed convolutions were also found, which in the early 20th century was suggested as the explanation of his genius.

Carl Friedrich Gauss's father wanted him to become a Mason

Carl Friedrich Gauss was borne as the only son of poor working-class parents. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a Mason, he was not supportive of Gauss's schooling in mathematics and science. He became a great mathematician and scientist.

Sequence of deaths in the life of Carl Friedrich Gauss

Gauss's personal life was overshadowed by the early death of his first wife, Johanna Osthoff, in 1809, soon followed by the death of one child, Louis. Gauss plunged into a depression from which he never fully recovered. He married again, to Johanna's best friend commonly known as Minna. When his second wife died in 1831 after a long illness, one of his daughters, Therese, took over the household and cared for Gauss until the end of his life.

Wife is dying - "Tell her to wait a moment till I'm done."

Gauss was an ardent perfectionist and a hard worker. According to Isaac Asimov, Gauss was once interrupted in the middle of a problem and told that his wife was dying. He is purported to have said, "Tell her to wait a moment till I'm done." This anecdote is briefly discussed in Waldo Dunnington's Gauss, Titan of Science where it is suggested that it is an apocryphal story.
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