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Leonard Euler - Ancestor of Russian Mathematics
January 24, 2008 13:55

Leonard Euler

Leonard Euler, genial Swiss-born mathematician and founder of Russian school of mathematics, is born in Basel of Switzerland on April 15, 1707. His father is a priest, and his family lives in a village where his father has a parish. Rural scenery and decent atmosphere in his home, where little Leonard receives his primary education, have a great effect on future mathematician’s life and world view. Taking a short dive into gymnasium, thirteen-year-old Leonard enters Basel University in 1920, where three years later finishes training at the faculty of philosophy and enters another, theological, faculty obeying his father’s orders. Young boy is interested in mathematics and attracts attention of Professor Johann Bernoulli. Famous scientist becomes personal adviser of Leonard Euler and guides him through his studies. Soon Johann Bernoulli says that talent and brilliant brains would bring young boy to triumph.

In 1925 Leonard Euler agrees to accompany sons of his teacher to Russia, where they are invited to the newly opened Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Next year the scientist receives an invitation himself. Euler leaves Basel in spring of 1727 and arrives to Saint Petersburg seven weeks later. In Russia Swiss mathematician is offered an adjunct position at higher mathematics department, in 1731 Euler receives a professor title a heads the department of theoretical and experimental physics. In 1733 Leonard Euler becomes the head of higher mathematics department.

Straight upon his arrival to Saint Petersburg Leonard Euler dives into scientific work, and everyone is surprised with high efficiency and fruitfulness of his studies. Numerous articles appearing in academic annual journals first cover issues of mechanics and soon make the mathematician world famous. His works contribute to the fame of Academy’s science journals in Western Europe. Since that time the flood of Euler’s works fills Academy’s editions for the whole century.


Together with theoretical studies Leonard Euler fulfils numerous tasks of the Academy. He examines various devices and mechanisms, discusses means for lifting a giant bell to Moscow Kremlin and etc. At the same time Euler reads lectures in Academic gymnasium, works in astronomical observatory, contributes to “Saint Petersburg Gazette” newspaper and does other interesting and exciting things. In 1735 Leonard Euler helps Academy’s Department of Geography, contributing to development of cartography in Russia. Tireless Euler doesn’t stop working, even after he loses his right eye due to a serious disease in 1738.

In 1740 Russian political situation becomes uncomfortable, and Euler decides to accept invitation of Prussian king. The scientist moves to Berlin in 1741, where he soon heads mathematical classes in reorganized Berlin Academy of Science and Philology. Years, spent in Berlin, appear to be most fruitful time of his scientific activities. The genius participates in many hot scientific and philosophical discussions, including one about the principle of least action. However, moving to Berlin doesn’t break his tight connections with Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. The mathematician keeps sending his works to Russia, teaches Russian students, recruits scientific staff for the Academy and fulfills many other tasks.

Religious nature of great mathematician conflicts with “freedom of thought”, surrounding him at the court of Friedrich the Great. Bright relations between Euler and the king slowly quench despite the fact Friedrich understood that Euler is the gem of his Academy. During last years of his Berlin citizenship Leonard Euler does everything a president of the academy should have done, but never receives an official presidential status. In 1766 Leonard Euler accepts an invitation of the Russian empress Catherine the Great and, paying no attention to Friedrich’s rage, returns to Russia, where spends the rest of his life.

In 1766 Euler’s health gets worse, and his left eye almost loses its eyesight. However, nothing can stop “perpetuum mobile”, and Euler continues working. Several students write his articles and prepare them for press – almost blind genius publishes hundreds of scientific articles. In September on 1783 Leonard Euler feels slightly sick. On September 18 the mathematician performs his research, but suddenly he faints and “stops living and counting forever”. Great scientist is buried on Smolenskoye Lutheran cemetery Saint Petersburg, and his remnants are moved to the Necropolis of Alexandro-Nevskaya Lavra (famous monastery of Saint Petersburg) in 1956.


Read more about Leonard Euler’s scientific achievements here.

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian scientists Russian science    

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