Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss 30 April 1777 – 23 February 1855 was a German mathematician and physicist who made significant contributions to many fields in mathematics and sciences. Sometimes referred to as the Princeps mathematicorum (Latin for "the foremost of mathematicians") and "the greatest mathematician since antiquity", Gauss had an exceptional influence in many fields of mathematics and science and is ranked among history's most influential mathematicians.
Gauss was a Lutheran Protestant, a member of the St. Albans Evangelical Lutheran church in Göttingen. Potential evidence that Gauss believed in God comes from his response after solving a problem that had previously defeated him: "Finally, two days ago, I succeeded—not on account of my hard efforts, but by the grace of the Lord." One of his biographers, G. Waldo Dunnington, described
Gauss's religious views as follows:
For him science was the means of exposing the immortal nucleus of the human soul. In the days of his full strength, it furnished him recreation and, by the prospects which it opened up to him, gave consolation. Toward the end of his life, it brought him confidence. Gauss's God was not a cold and distant figment of metaphysics, nor a distorted caricature of embittered theology. To man is not vouchsafed that fullness of knowledge which would warrant his arrogantly holding that his blurred vision is the full light and that there can be none other which might report the truth as does his. For Gauss, not he who mumbles his creed, but he who lives it, is accepted. He believed that a life worthily spent here on earth is the best, the only, preparation for heaven. Religion is not a question of literature, but of life. God's revelation is continuous, not contained in tablets of stone or sacred parchment. A book is inspired when it inspires. The unshakeable idea of personal continuance after death, the firm belief in a last regulator of things, in an eternal, just, omniscient, omnipotent God, formed the basis of his religious life, which harmonized completely with his scientific research.
Gauss was a child prodigy. He could calculate complicated mathematical problems from an early age. He claimed that he knew how to count before he knew how to talk. According to legend before he was in elementary school he once corrected an error of calculation in his father's finances. He calculated a complicated mathematical problem his third grade teacher gave his class within a few seconds. The problem was to calculate the sum of the first 100 natural numbers. Gauss spotted immediately that by adding 1 + 100 (=101), then 2 + 99 (=101), then 3 + 98 (=101), he would end up with 50 lots of 101, which is 5050. The method that Gauss applied to this problem can be applied to all arithmetic progressions. After this and other feats his teacher recognized Gauss's genius and sought to get him in high level academic math.
By age 12, Gauss was questioning the axioms of Euclid. By age 19 Gauss had proven that the regular n-gon was constructible if and only if n is the product of different odd prime Fermat numbers and a power of two. When he was 24, Gauss published Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, considered perhaps the greatest book of pure mathematics ever. He improved the understanding of complex numbers.
Gauss was the first mathematician to prove the Fundamental theorem of algebra and the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic. Gauss also collaborated with physicist Wilhelm Weber who helped discover magnetism and define it in terms of mass, length and time. Gauss influenced a Russian mathematician named Nikolai I. Lobachevsky (1792-1856). Lobachevsky invented non-Euclidean geometry and used some of Gauss's ideas to develop it.