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The giants in mathematics and their works

  1. Apr 28, 2012 #1
    So I think everyone agrees that on the top of the list are Gauss, Euler, Newton, and so on. Yet it seems like as you get higher in mathematics, those names disappear. I mean, I'm an undergrad going for a math degree and I'm taking classes like Topology and Analysis, which came way later. All the names I hear are Cauchy and Weierstrass and some other more modern mathematicians that I've never heard of. It makes me wander if Gauss and Euler are still really the giants in mathematics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 28, 2012 #2
    They're still the giants of mathematics (but there are other giants as well!!). They pop up at a lot of places in undergrad mathematics, depending on what courses you take.

    A fun thing to do is trying to read their works to see just how much they accomplished.
  4. Apr 28, 2012 #3
    I think important thing to see is what we have is work of many civilizations and many people. I wonder what percentage of math knowledge was discovered by "the giants" you mentioned in the OP. It likely will not be a big percentage IMO.
  5. Apr 28, 2012 #4
    Well what I'm trying to say is that their works seem to be irrelevant to a nowaday math major. You focus more on the "pure math", which includes more recent math like topology and analysis.
    Sure Gauss, Euler, and Newton do pop out a lot, but usually in the "applied math" courses, which are to my experience not very popular with my hardcore math major friends.
    I don't find myself very comfortable with pure math. And I'm under the impression that the math you do in grad school for a standard math degree is also mostly pure math. This kind of disappointed me a little bit as I had hoped that as I advanced more into mathematics, I would learn more of what Gauss and Euler did, maybe taking a few whole courses about it or something. But instead I ended up learning how to write proofs and using rigorous logics.
  6. Apr 29, 2012 #5
    Maybe in a different thread tell us:
    - what distinguishes pure and applied math to you,
    - what about pure math are you uncomfortable with and
    - what do you like about applied math.

    You may find that areas which you think of as pure math have a lot of applications but perhaps you like applied math for other reasons then its applications.
  7. Apr 29, 2012 #6
    Well, it's been over 300 years ago that some of them lived, so inevitably for some modern math courses you aren't going to see much of their work, as you can expect, there has been progress. Doesn't diminish or make their work obscure though.
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