Sanderson M. Smith

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CATE SCHOOL FRENCH TEACHER

(to help in the celebration of French Week)

These French men and women made their way into history books because of their valuable contributions to the development of mathematics.

His most significant contributions were in algebra. He introduced some of the useful notation, including the plus and minus symbols, that we still use today.

He was actually a philosopher who believed that
the world was created with a mathematical design. He introduced the
idea of representing points (x,y) in a plane. In all of our math
courses, we work in the *Cartesian
coordinate system.*

He was both a mathematician and a philosopher. He
believed the laws of mathematics represented absolute truths. His
name is associated with the famous *Pascal's
Triangle*. Pascal didn't actually create
the original triangle, but he discovered many of its amazing
properties. (History shows that the Chinese actually had Pascal's
Triangle around 1300, some 300 years before Pascal was born.)

He is one of the co-founders (**Descartes** was the other) of the
branch of mathematics we call analytic geometry. Fermat is most
famous for his *Last Theorem*, which puzzled mathematicians for over 300 years.

Her major work, *Mathematical Principles of Natural
Philosophy,* was a French translation and
commentaries on Newton's *Principia.* She also produced a
very scholarly manuscript entitled *Dissertation on the Nature and Propagation of
Fire.*

He did a critical analysis of the works of
**Newton**,
**Euler**, and
**Liebniz** and
created some of the calculus notation we use today, including symbols
such as f'(x) and f''(x) for derivatives. He made contributions to
many branches of mathematics.

He made significant contributions to celestial mechanics, probability, differential equations, and geodesy. His analysis of the solar system earned him the title of "The Newton of France."

His most significant contribution represented a
rearrangement and simplification of many propositions in
**Euclid's**
*Elements*. His
work was well-received in the United States and became a prototype of
U.S. geometry books.

Despite opposition from her own family (women
weren't supposed to study mathematics), Germain studied math in her
father's extensive personal library, where she was often confined
during ten years of French revolutionary violence. She wrote
mathematical papers under the pseudonym **M.
Le Blanc**, so readers would not realize she
was a woman. She made many contributions to mathematics. Her struggle
to become educated is fascinating and well worth a bit of
research.

His life story makes him sound like a fictional
literary character. His very troubled life ended when he was killed
in a duel at age 20. Yet, he is credited with being the founder of a
branch of mathematics known as *group
theory*. A subset of this branch of math is
called *Galois Theory*. If you reteach his life, you'll get the "I can't believe
this guy was real" feeling.

**OK, this last name may surprise you. Indeed,
this man was an outstanding mathematician...**

** **

"The advancement and perfection of mathematics are intimately connected with the prosperity of the state."

Napoleon was a strong advocate of education and
made efforts to ensure that mathematics became a permanent part of
the French School curriculum. As a young man, he completed his
studies at the Military School of Paris with superior grades in
mathematics, earning him the commission of second lieutenant of the
Royal Artillery. Recognized for his excellence in mathematics, he
was also appointed to the mathematics section of the French National
Institute. Prior to Napoleon's time, French schools concentrated
mainly on literature and languages. **Lagrange**, **Laplace**, and **Legendre** (mentioned above)
flourished under Napoleon.

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