Often called the language of the universe, mathematics is fundamental to our understanding of the world and, as such, is vitally important in a modern society such as ours. Everywhere you look it is likely mathematics has made an impact, from the faucet in your kitchen to the satellite that beams your television programs to your home. As such, great mathematicians are undoubtedly going to rise above the rest and have their name embedded within history. This list documents some such people. I have rated them based on contributions and how they effected mathematics at the time, as well as their lasting effect. I also suggest one looks deeper into the lives of these men, as they are truly fascinating people and their discoveries are astonishing – too much to include here. As always, such lists are highly subjective, and as such please include your own additions in the comments!
10 Pythagoras of Samos
Greek Mathematician Pythagoras is considered by some to be one of the first great mathematicians. Living around 570 to 495 BC, in modern day Greece, he is known to have founded the Pythagorean cult, who were noted by Aristotle to be one of the first groups to actively study and advance mathematics. He is also commonly credited with the Pythagorean Theorem within trigonometry. However, some sources doubt that is was him who constructed the proof (Some attribute it to his students, or Baudhayana, who lived some 300 years earlier in India). Nonetheless, the effect of such, as with large portions of fundamental mathematics, is commonly felt today, with the theorem playing a large part in modern measurements and technological equipment, as well as being the base of a large portion of other areas and theorems in mathematics. But, unlike most ancient theories, it played a bearing on the development of geometry, as well as opening the door to the study of mathematics as a worthwhile endeavor. Thus, he could be called the founding father of modern mathematics.
9 Andrew Wiles
The only currently living mathematician on this list, Andrew Wiles is most well known for his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem: That no positive integers, a, b and c can satisfy the equation a^n+b^n=c^n For n greater then 2. (If n=2 it is the Pythagoras Formula). Although the contributions to math are not, perhaps, as grand as other on this list, he did ‘invent’ large portions of new mathematics for his proof of the theorem. Besides, his dedication is often admired by most, as he quite literally shut himself away for 7 years to formulate a solution. When it was found that the solution contained an error, he returned to solitude for a further year before the solution was accepted. To put in perspective how ground breaking and new the math was, it had been said that you could count the number of mathematicians in the world on one hand who, at the time, could understand and validate his proof. Nonetheless, the effects of such are likely to only increase as time passes (and more and more people can understand it).
8 Isaac Newton and Wilhelm Leibniz
I have placed these two together as they are both often given the honor of being the ‘inventor’ of modern infinitesimal calculus, and as such have both made monolithic contributions to the field. To start, Leibniz is often given the credit for introducing modern standard notation, notably the integral sign. He made large contributions to the field of Topology. Whereas all round genius Isaac Newton has, because of the grand scientific epic Principia, generally become the primary man hailed by most to be the actual inventor of calculus. Nonetheless, what can be said is that both men made considerable vast contributions in their own manner.