Leonhard Euler biography
Algebra | coordinate geometry | Topology for dummies | Symmetry | Bertrand Russell philosophy | Sir issac newton | Topology for dummies | Albert Einstein
Leonhard Euler (15 April 1707 – 18 September 1783) was a Swiss mathematician and physicist, considered to be one of the greatest
mathematicians of all time.
All the greatest mathematicians have long since recognized that the method presented in this book is not only extremely useful in analysis, but that it also contributes greatly to the solution of physical problems. For since the fabric of the universe is most perfect, and is the work of a most wise Creator, nothing whatsoever takes place in the universe in which some relation of maximum and minimum does not appear. Wherefore there is absolutely no doubt that every effect in the universe can be explained as satisfactorily from final causes, by the aid of the method of maxima and minima, as it can from the effective causes themselves. Now there exist on every hand such notable instances of this fact, that, in order to prove its truth, we have no need at all of a number of examples; nay rather one's task should be this, namely, in any field of Natural Science whatsoever to study that quantity which takes on a maximum or a minimum value, an occupation that seems to belong to philosophy rather than to mathematics. Since, therefore, two methods of studying effects in Nature lie open to us, one by means of effective causes, which is commonly called the direct method, the other by means of final causes, the mathematician uses each with equal success. Of course, when the effective causes are too obscure, but the final causes are more readily ascertained, the problem is commonly solved by the indirect method; on the contrary, however, the direct method is employed whenever it is possible to determine the effect from the effective causes. But one ought to make a special effort to see that both ways of approach to the solution of the problem be laid open; for thus not only is one solution greatly strengthened by the other, but, more than that, from the agreement between the two solutions we secure the very highest satisfaction.
It will seem a little paradoxical to ascribe a great importance to observations even in that part of the mathematical sciences which is usually called Pure Mathematics, since the current opinion is that observations are restricted to physical objects that make impression on the senses. As we must refer the numbers to the pure intellect alone, we can hardly understand how observations and quasi-experiments can be of use in investigating the nature of numbers. Yet, in fact, as I shall show here with very good reasons, the properties of the numbers known today have been mostly discovered by observation, and discovered long before their truth has been confirmed by rigid demonstrations. There are many properties of the numbers with which we are well acquainted, but which we are not yet able to prove; only observations have led us to their knowledge. Hence we see that in the theory of numbers, which is still very imperfect, we can place our highest hopes in observations; they will lead us continually to new properties which we shall endeavor to prove afterwards. The kind of knowledge which is supported only by observations and is not yet proved must be carefully distinguished from the truth; it is gained by induction, as we usually say. Yet we have seen cases in which mere induction led to error. Therefore, we should take great care not to accept as true such properties of the numbers which we have discovered by observation and which are supported by induction alone. Indeed, we should use such discovery as an opportunity to investigate more exactly the properties discovered and to prove or disprove them; in both cases we may learn something useful.