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Twentieth Century Mathematics - Riemann to Relativity



Twentieth Century Mathematics - Riemann to Relativity
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     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.73

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    deterrent, einsteinium, non-Euclidean, photochemistry, photoelectric, photon, revelatory, equation, synonymous, analysis, geometry, differential, mathematical, mathematics, atomic, astronomy
     content words:    Carl Friedrich Gauss, Bernhard Riemann, Carl Gauss, When Einstein, Special Theory, Starship Enterprise, Captain Kirk, General Theory, Nobel Prize, President Franklin D.


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Twentieth Century Mathematics - Riemann to Relativity
By Colleen Messina
  

1     Mathematics moved in new directions by the end of the 19th century as technology advanced in exciting ways. The Wright brothers flew the first airplane, and gas lighting became popular. The mathematical giant of that century, Carl Friedrich Gauss, made many discoveries in mathematics, astronomy, and physics. He also contemplated unusual problems in geometry, such as how to measure curved surfaces. His brilliant student, Bernhard Riemann, solved that problem and eventually laid the mathematical foundations for Einstein's theories of relativity.
 
2     Riemann's father was a Lutheran pastor and wanted his son to follow his example. Bernhard started to study theology, but eventually his father allowed him to study mathematics. When he was 28, Bernhard had to give a lecture in order to become an associate professor. He suggested three possible subjects to his mentor, Carl Gauss. Gauss selected Riemann's least favorite topic: non-Euclidean geometry. This lecture was a great success and made Riemann famous. Gauss was so pleased that he made a comment at end of the presentation that Riemann had solved problems that Gauss had wondered about for his whole life!
 
3     Riemann's system of "differential geometry" made it possible to measure any curved surface. The idea of curved space was so revolutionary that it was not fully understood until the 20th century. Riemann also contributed to the theory of functions, complex analysis, and number theory, which are important subjects in higher mathematics. Riemann died at age 39 from tuberculosis. In his short life, he laid the foundation for Einstein's amazing theories of relativity.

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