April 30, 2018
Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß’s 241st Birthday
Today’s Doodle celebrates the birthday of Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß, one of history's most influential mathematicians — and it was the scholar, himself, who worked out the date. While his mother couldn’t read or write, she knew her son was born eight days before the Feast of the Ascension (39 days after Easter). At the age of 22, Gauß set about using math to solve the mystery, devising a formula to compute the date on which Easter fell in any given year, and his exact birthday — April 30th.
It was far from the first time Gauß exhibited mathematical gifts; at the age of three, he found an error in his father’s business payroll accounts, and by the age of five, he was made responsible for overseeing them. At age seven, he shocked his teachers by almost instantly summing integers from 1 to 100, using a formula he created himself.
Gauß made substantial contributions to the fields of Algebra, Astronomy, and non-Euclidean geometries. He developed the Theorema Egregium, a method of calculating the curvature of a surface using angles and distances, as well as Gaußian statistics (the bell curve) and the Gauß Divergence Theorem. At the age of 24, he wrote “Disquisitiones Arithmeticae” which laid the foundation for modern number theory and is widely regarded as one of the most influential mathematics texts of all time.
In fact, his contributions to the world of mathematics remain so vital that one of the highest honors in mathematics, the Gauß Prize, bears his name.
Today’s Doodle was created by guest artist Bene Rohlmann and highlights several of the things for which Gauß is widely known. The star, found on the Gauß statue in his hometown, represents the heptadecagon he constructed. He invented the sextant/heliotrope for geodetic surveying, and the ellipse represents his work in astronomy. The curve shows a triple version of the normal distribution, which he popularized, and E represents Sigma, the mathematical symbol for a sum.
In honor of his wide-ranging achievements, happy birthday to Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß!
Early drafts of the Doodle below