Sunday, August 10, 2008

Top 10 Mathematicians of all time

From Ars Mathematica I have found the following link which has nominated the top 10 Mathematicians of all time. I'll quote the first paragraph of that site:

"Being the nerds that we are, it was only a matter of time before Old-Wizard released a Top 10 Mathematicians of all time list. The only question would be what criteria we would use when determining the order of the list. Would it be based on the volume of the mathematician’s contributions to the mathematical community? If so, Euler would be the obvious choice for the number one mathematician of all time. Or, would we base the list on the significance of the mathematicians’ “discoveries”? If so, Newton would dominate our list. Or, what if we based our list on the originality of the mathematician’s ideas? Well, if we did that, It would be hard to argue against making Cantor our number one mathematician of all time. In the end, we decided not to use any one of these criteria exclusively, instead, we choose a combination of all three of these to decide our list. All three were considered equally, and the results may or not surprise you, depending on your mathematical disposition. So, without any further adieu, we present the Top Ten Mathematicians of All Time List:"

10. Augustin Cauchy
9. Kurt Godel
8. Srinivasa Ramanujan
7. Henri Poincare
6. George Cantor
5. Gottfried Wilhelm Riemann
4. Leonhard Euler
3. Sir Isaac Newton
2. Archimedes of Syracuse
1. Carl Fredrich Gauss

Do you agree, or is someone not on the list who you believe should be? (And vice-versa). What would your top 10 be? Personally I wouldn't have Newton on that list. I mean, you all can't have forgotten my personal vendetta against him for his silly apple antics right? *hides from Mechanista and refrains from linking said post* Erm... Newton's just... just fine actually!

Well I think I would have Germain, Galois and Fermat in my top ten. And if this list is not bounded by any time constraint, my three PTs would make it there too. (And some people you might know from Blogistan!) I think Cauchy would also have to be there due to his persistence in being mentioned in every single module that I tend to study. Hmph. Ooh, and Hilbert would probably be there as well, which makes ten according to my calculations.

I guess my list is more of a personal top ten, decided according to the impact said mathematicians might have had on me. (Apart from Hilbert who I don't really know that much, but he seems cool...)

Anyway, from Ars Mathematica I also found the link to The Thirty Greatest Mathematicians, which is slightly more forgiving but I still want to hear your top 10 (in no particular order if you insist!)


Steph said...

My top 10:

1. Grothendieck
2. Hodge
3. Gauss
4. Serre
5. Riemann
6. Dirichlet
7. Cauchy
8. Fourier
9. Jacobi
10. Hilbert

Anonymous said...

I edit this list trying to have mathematician in each big area of math. I select these scientists by their contribution in math and own sympathy.

Analysis & Functional analysis: - all own life based on integrals, ODE, PDE and other stuff from this section of math
Sir Isaac Newton - i don't like him, but he is genius. He create basic of analysis and solve difficult task in other area with it. I couldn't exclude him from list.
Leibniz - he suggest another vision of analysis, more algebraic and more beautiful, i mean infinity-small values viewed as real object, which break axiom of Archimedes. I think he is good replacement for Newton.
Hilbert - represent functional analysis and all outstanding scientist behind it like Fourier, Banach. In some point of view Euclid space is kind of Hilbert space, so David represent Euclid too. By the way he is from Koenigsberg which now known as Kaliningrad - part of Russia, my motherland)))
Algebra: - not is useful in pragmatic meaning, but the most beautiful part in math
Euler - great scientist who lived, worked and buried in my native city - Saint-Petersburg=)
Galois - real rock star in math, lived fast died young. Introduced groups and solve problem about solving equation with radicals
Topology: - child of algebra and analysis
Riemann - father of manifolds and analysis on it.
Hausdorff - i think he made a biggest contribute to topology and fraction dimension.
Godel - a man who break Hilbert's thoughts about reducing all math to algorithms
Probability: - not probability famous by Bernoulli, but probability close to measure theory.
Kolmogorov - person who made a bridge between measure theory and probability. Behind him i see Bernoulli by one hand and Lebesgue, Wiener by other. Also i see all issue like stochastic calculus. And he and my grandfather from the same city - Tambov:))

It's the ten, but there is one person, i think the greatest mathematician in history, more - man who suggest idea of mathematical thinking, way to prove theorems from more common axioms - Euclid.

Rystsov Denis (

Beans said...

Hi Steph,

I don't really know much about Grothendieck (his name seems a vague memory) but a cool list. (And you've got Cauchy too!)

Beans said...

Hi Rystsov Denis,

Thanks a lot for your comprehensive list -- I enjoyed reading your comments. (And I found someone else who doesn't like Newton as well!)

Your top ten reminded me about Euler, who I would probably try to substitute in if possible! I also didn't know that Hilbert was born in Russia. (Cool!)

We could be "mean" to Newton and call him Newtoon (like cartoon), but I'm more grown up than I used to be... And I don't hate him that much!

KTC said...

"I don't really know much about Grothendieck (his name seems a vague memory) but a cool list. (And you've got Cauchy too!)"

I think that's the thing about the list you linked to. It's all names I've heard (or rather, read) of and recognized immediately, whereas steph & anonymous both contains at least one name that required looking up (and then think "oh yeah I read about him!").

No one mentioned Erdős ? :(

Anatoly said...

My top ten list is just a simple rearrangement of the list you found:

10. Henri Poincare
9. Srinivasa Ramanujan
8. Augustin Cauchy
7. Gottfried Wilhelm Riemann
6. George Cantor
4. Kurt Godel
4. Leonhard Euler
3. Archimedes of Syracuse
2. Sir Isaac Newton
1. Carl Fredrich Gauss

Beans said...

Hey KTC,

I gather Erdos would be in your list then?! (Truth be told, I have yet to read the book about him so I don't yet know about his genius).

I found myself googling names in the lists by Steph and Rystsov too. (I don't know why, but it came as a surprise to find that some were still alive!)

Beans said...

Hi Anatoly,

I think that a group of names might find themselves on everyone's list. (Eg. Hilbert, Gauss, Cauchy). An interesting question would be to name your top ten alive(!) mathematicians!

Anonymous said...

I beelive that ARS is close. Still it fails on the cases of Newton and Ramanujan. Newton has left behind much less than Riemann and Euler. He is recognized as the father of calculus, but Leibnitz did it seven years before him. Today we use the notation used by Leinitz. Ramanujan was a great genius but he was not ahead of his time. He didn't leave behind him a math, but some important results. One of the criteria should be to see how many today's math papers mention Riemann, and how many mention Newton.
Someone mentions Erdos. Ok, great, but he was more of a problem solver, not a visionary.
I believe that the greatest are Gauss, Riemann, Euler, Archimede, Godel, Hilbert, Galois,Euclid, Lagrange, Dirichlet. If Riemann Hypothesis shall be solved favorable to Riemann's finding, then...

Anonymous said...

Ramanujan, even if a genius,did not leave behind a mathematical treasure and was not ahead of his time. Therefore it is absurd to place him in the first ten and leave out a giant like David Hilbert. There's other point to make, if Ramanujan, I repeat a genius, is selected in the first top ten then why don't we include Galois in this group? He did probably more than Ramanujan. Sir Isaac Newton comes second. Did he do more in math history than Euler or Riemann?! Let's be serious, he didn't!
We all know that calculus was discovered also by Leibnitz event which minimizes Newton's discovery.
1. Gauss
2-3. Euler, Riemann
4 Archimede
5 Hilbert
6 Godel
7 Cauchy
8 Galois
9 Poincare
10 Lagrange

Beans said...

Hi Anon 2,

I find that number theorists have a certain pull towards Rananujan! Yes his story is slightly *something* but I agree with your thoughts.

(It's not I'm not liking my number theory course or something...!)

math said...

do you guys really understand a genius ?! the work of a genius pervades through space and time and across disciplines which shows beacon light to future generations ... a true genius is recognized by only geniuses... not by anyone and everyone who study science !!! you may not have the intelligence to acknowledge and understand contributions of the greatest mathematician of all times, but please do not underestimate him !!! next time, someone will make a stupid statement that relativity theory was due to hilbert and minkowski... and einstein practically did nothing thus minimizing his discovery !!! I'm surprised also that no one mentioned about laplace, another stalwart in mathematics and science !!!

Anonymous said...

I'm just a highschool student so we only studied Newton
,Leibniz,Lagrange,Cauchy,Gauss,L'Hospital, Dirichlet, Darboux ,Weierstrass etc.
But as far as I have been reading maths literature I'd place Archimedes on the top of my list. I consider him the discoverer of Mathematical Analysis before Newton/Leibniz were even born. Archimedes was so much ahead of his time, he is certainly the greatest mathematician of Antiquity and why not? of all times.

Anonymous said...

Aryabhatta was the most famous mathematician.ur such a dumbo that u didnot add his name.

Anonymous said...

I think Aryabhata is the worst mathematician ever.In no way did he contribute to maths except write books about what others already discoverd.

Anonymous said...

aryabhata is the worst mathematician.

Beans said...

Hi, Well I hadn't honestly heard of Aryabhata until that comment, hence I had refrained from replying.

Now I don't feel like such a dumbo. :p

srinath said...

u bloody ****** guys dont u know aryabhatta had discoverd the number zeo '0'.without which tere is no mathematics, physics or no scientifc inventions

Anonymous said...

Leaving out Ramanujam would be unfair to his contributions.Imagine all ATMs & smart cards you guys are using today are based on his number theory only!Also much of his important discoveries have started impacting the modern mathematics and still today opening new areas of further research.
Also Father of Calculas,Newton was not first person to use calculas,Yes he did it for western maths,Calculas was used much earlier by Indians,at least 4-5 centuries earlier than Newton!Brahmgupta must be in the list for his introduction of ZERO without which perhaps many mathematicians in your list would have died un noticed!!!

Rayne said...

It is foolish to make this list. It will be biased some or the other way

Anonymous said...

Ramanujan deserves a name in top 5 at least, he is said to surpass jacobi, hilbert and euler in terms of pure mathematical talent