Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (30 April 1777 – 23 February 1855) was a German mathematician who definitely deserved his nick name, the “Prince of Mathematicians.”
Today Gauss is mostly known for his famous curve of probability, a.k.a. the “Gauss Curve,” which expresses the distribution of the probability of all the outcomes of random events. Known as a child prodigy, Gauss was only 21 years old when he wrote his mathematics masterpiece, “Disquisitiones Arithmeticae.” He was famous for calculating the logarithms of numbers in his head, without using a logarithm table.
Here is a great story about how Gauss shocked his teacher one day when he was in elementary school…
In order to keep the students busy during his absence, the teacher told the class to add all integers between 1 and 100.
But Gauss blurted out the correct result, 5050, before even the teacher had the chance to leave the room! Incredulous that one of his students could add 100 numbers within just seconds, he challenged Gauss to explain how he did it.
The answer was actually very simple, if you had the genius of Gauss to figure it out in the first place…
Gauss added pairs of numbers from the opposite ends of the number spectrum and they always added up to 101, as in 100+1, 99+2, 98+3, …, 3+98, 2+99, 1+100. And he figured there were 100 such pairs ( there are 100 integers between 1 and 100). So he multiplied 100 by 101. However, with this method, the integers between 1 and 100 is added twice. Hence he divide the addition by two and presto! 5050 was the answer. Isn’t mathematics sweet?
As smart as he was, Gauss was also incredibly devoted to his work. According to famous science writer Isaac Asimov, when he was told that his wife was dying, Gauss was in the middle of a problem. So he supposedly said: “Tell her to wait a moment till I’m done!” As perhaps heartless as it sounds, the anecdote also reflects the superhuman concentration of a legendary mathematician on the work that he loved with such a passion.