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Gauss was born Poor and a Child Prodigy

Carl Friedrich Gauss

Carl Friedrich Gauss was born on 30 April 1777 in Germany, to poor, working-class parents. His mother was illiterate and never recorded the date of his birth, remembering only that he had been born on a Wednesday, eight days before the Feast of the Ascension (which occurs 39 days after Easter).

Gauss was a child prodigy. When Gauss was barely seven years old he confidently solved an arithmetic series problem faster than anyone else in his class of 100 students. According to one famous story, in primary school his teacher, tried to occupy pupils by making them add a list of integers. The young Gauss reputedly produced the correct answer within seconds, to the astonishment of his teacher and his assistant. Gauss's presumed method, which supposes the list of numbers was from 1 to 100, was to realise 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.

He made his first groundbreaking mathematical discoveries while still a teenager. He completed his masterpiece, "Arithmetical Investigations" written in 1798, at the age of 21—though it was not published until 1801. This work was fundamental in consolidating number theory as a discipline and has shaped the field to the present day.

Gauss's intellectual abilities attracted the attention of the Duke of Brunswick, the then ruler, who sent him to the Collegium Carolinum (now Braunschweig University of Technology)and then to the University of Göttingen from 1795 to 1798. While at university, Gauss independently rediscovered several important theorems.

Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777 – 1855) was a German mathematician and physicist who made significant contributions to many fields including algebra, analysis, astronomy, differential geometry, electrostatics, geodesy, geophysics, magnetic fields, matrix theory, mechanics, number theory, optics and statistics. Referred to as the "the greatest mathematician since antiquity", Gauss had an exceptional influence in many fields of mathematics and science, and is ranked among history's most influential mathematicians.
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Religious views of Carl Friedrich Gauss, the Great Mathematician

Carl Friedrich Gauss

Gauss believed in God. Potential evidence that Gauss believed in God comes from his response after solving a problem that had previously defeated him: "Finally, two days ago, I succeeded—not on account of my hard efforts, but by the grace of the Lord."

One of his biographers, described Gauss's religious views as follows:

  • For him science was the means of exposing the immortal nucleus of the human soul. In the days of his full strength, it furnished him recreation and, by the prospects which it opened up to him, gave consolation. Toward the end of his life, it brought him confidence.
  • Gauss's God was not a cold and distant figment of metaphysics, nor a distorted caricature of embittered theology.
  • Gauss believed that a life worthily spent here on earth is the best, the only, preparation for heaven.
  • Religion is not a question of literature, but of life. God's revelation is continuous, not contained in tablets of stone or sacred parchment.
    Gauss believed the unshakeable idea of personal continuance after death, the firm belief in a last regulator of things, in an eternal, just, omniscient, omnipotent God, formed the basis of his religious life, which harmonized completely with his scientific research.
  • Gauss's religious consciousness was based on an insatiable thirst for truth and a deep feeling of justice extending to intellectual as well as material goods.
  • He conceived spiritual life in the whole universe as a great system of law penetrated by eternal truth, and from this source he gained the firm confidence that death does not end all.
  • Gauss declared he firmly believed in the afterlife, and saw spirituality as something essentially important for human beings.[40] He was quoted stating: "The world would be nonsense, the whole creation an absurdity without immortality,"
  • Gauss strongly upheld religious tolerance, believing "that one is not justified in disturbing another's religious belief, in which they find consolation for earthly sorrows in time of trouble."
  • When his son Eugene announced that he wanted to become a Christian missionary, Gauss approved of this, saying that regardless of the problems within religious organizations, missionary work was "a highly honorable" task.
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