Quotes about Carl Friedrich Gauss
16 Sourced Quotes
Armed with his prime number tables, Gauss began his quest. As he looked at the proportion of numbers that were prime, he found that when he counted higher and higher a pattern started to emerge. Despite the randomness of these numbers, a stunning regularity seemed to be looming out of the mist.
I think it is said that Gauss had ten different proofs for the law of quadratic reciprocity. Any good theorem should have several proofs, the more the better. For two reasons: usually, different proofs have different strengths and weaknesses, and they generalize in different directions - they are not just repetitions of each other.
If we except the great name of Newton (and the exception is one that the great Gauss himself would have been delighted to make) it is probable that no mathematician of any age or country has ever surpassed Gauss in the combination of an abundant fertility of invention with an absolute vigorousness in demonstration...
As Gauss first pointed out, the problem of cyclotomy, or division of the circle into a number of equal parts, depends in a very remarkable way upon arithmetical considerations. We have here the earliest and simplest example of those relations of the theory of numbers to transcendental analysis, and even to pure geometry, which so often unexpectedly present themselves, and which, at first sight, are so mysterious.
In other branches of science, where quick publication seems to be so much desired, there may possibly be some excuse for giving to the world slovenly or ill-digested work, but there is no such excuse in mathematics. The form ought to be as 102 perfect as the substance, and the demonstrations as rigorous as those of Euclid. The mathematician has to deal with the most exact facts of Nature, and he should spare no effort to render his interpretation worthy of his subject, and to give to his work its highest degree of perfection. Pauca sed matura was Gauss's motto.
The really deep divergence between the humanistic and scientific sensibilities is one of temporality. Very nearly by definition, the scientist knows that tomorrow will be in advance of today. A twentieth-century schoolboy can manipulate mathematical and experimental concepts inaccessible to a Galileo or a Gauss. For a scientist the curve of the future is positive. Inevitably, the humanist looks back.
In 1735 the solving of an astronomical problem, proposed by the Academy, for which several eminent mathematicians had demanded several months' time, was achieved in three days by Euler with aid of improved methods of his own... With still superior methods this same problem was solved by the illustrious Gauss in one hour.
If explaining minds seems harder than explaining songs, we should remember that sometimes enlarging problems makes them simpler! The theory of the roots of equations seemed hard for centuries within its little world of real numbers, but it suddenly seemed simple once Gauss exposed the larger world of so-called complex numbers. Similarly, music should make more sense once seen through listeners' minds.