Why mathematics?

First of all: good morning!

My name is David, I was born and grew up in (the good part of) Switzerland: Geneva.
After defending my PhD thesis in mathematics in 2004, I worked in Tübingen, Trondheim, Basel, Karlsruhe and ended up in Umeå some years ago.

As most of the people that I meet, you will probably ask me two questions: why mathematics? How did you come to Umeå?

Let’s start with the second question: by plane.

Sorry, I don’t have a particular answer to the first question ….

But I will try to provide you and redirect you to some information on why someone could perhaps, with some luck, like mathematics.

First of all, mathematics is one of the oldest (legal) profession in the world. The history of our field is rich, full of exciting characters, and fantastic!
You are probably familiar with Thales, Pythagoras, or Euclid. But …

Did you know that the proof of Pierre de Fermat’s (1607-1665) last theorem puzzled mathematicians from all over the world for more than 350 years?
Indeed, it was only in 1994 that the British mathematician Andrew Wiles found a correct (129 pages long!) proof of Fermat’s last theorem. Perhaps most importantly,
this last theorem tremendously stimulated (and is still stimulating) an important field of mathematics: algebraic number theory.

What about the greatest mathematician of all time: the Swiss Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) (ok, if you are German, you will probably say that it is Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855))?
Euler worked in almost all areas of mathematics and despite being blind since 1766, he worked until his death. If put together, his scientific contributions would occupy ca. 50 books!
Euler greatly influenced modern mathematics and physics. You will see one of his result in any courses in mathematics taken at the university (with probability 1).

Let’s finish this amuse-bouche by briefly looking at the life of Évariste Galois (1811-1832) and Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) since they are worthy of a Hollywood movie (ok Ramanujan already has his film: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015))!
First of all, Évariste Galois solved (for instance) an important problem that was standing for almost 350 years! In addition to this, he was involved in politics, went to jail at many occasions, and died in a duel possibly due to a love affair … Let us not forget that the mathematical work of Galois is the foundation for two fields of algebra: Galois theory and group theory.
Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician who taught himself mathematics and proved nearly 3900 results independently. In 1914, he was invited by Hardy to work in Cambridge (UK),
leaving his wife alone in India for almost five years … In top of that Ramanujan had serious health problems and died at the age of 32. His work has inspired a vast amount of nowadays research in mathematics.

With such a rich history and passionate characters, it makes no doubt that one could like mathematics!

Did I catch your interest?
If you want to know more about famous mathematicians and the history of mathematics, take a look at the following webpages (some of them were used to produce this post):
http://www.storyofmathematics.com/mathematicians.html
http://www.storyofmathematics.com/story.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_mathematics
http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/history/

The second reason why someone could perhaps like mathematics is TBC

Thank you for reading this first blog and have a nice day!
David

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