This holiday season came with quite a range of birthdays and I thought I should write something about this great mathematicians celebrated this season. I find it quite beautiful that they were born so close to Christmas. Thus, I want to talk about Isaac Newton (born on 25th), Charles Babbage (born on 26th) and John von Neumann (born on 28th).

Isaac Newton

He was born on 25th December 1642. He was an English physicist and mathematician and is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. He is mostly known for the things he has done in physics (classical mechanics to be more precise, also contributions to optics).

For mathematics, he shares credit with Leibniz for the development of calculus. Newton became involved in a dispute with Leibniz over priority in the development. Most modern historians believe that they developed the concepts independently, although with very different notations. Newton’s work extensively uses calculus in geometric form based on limiting values of the ratios of vanishing small quantities. Newton had been reluctant to publish his calculus because he feared controversy and criticism.

In addition to his work on calculus, he also contributed to the study of power series, generalized the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents, developed a method for approximating the roots of a function, and classified most of the cubic plane curves. He discovered Newton’s identities (give relations between two types of symmetric polynomials, namely between power sums and elementary symmetric polynomials) and Newton’s method. Observe that the names say everything.

Charles Babbage

He was born on 26th December 1791 and was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, he is best remembered for originating the concept of a programmable computer.

Babbage’s first computational machine was the “the difference engine”, conceived around the 1822. It was a mechanized calculator rather than a computer, and was intended to help in the creation of mathematical tables such as logarithms. Such tables were normally compiled manually from human calculations and were notoriously inaccurate. He’s difference engine was never completed in his lifetime, although a modern version based on his later designs was made by the Science Museum in London between 1989 and 1991, and found to work as intended.

John von Neumann

He was born on 28th December 1903. He was a Hungarian-American pure and applied mathematician, physicist, inventor, and polymath. He made major contributions to a number of fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, fluid dynamics and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics. He was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics, in the development of functional analysis, a principal member of the Manhattan Project and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (as one of the few originally appointed), and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor, and the digital computer.

To talk about his work will take for ages and I totally recommend you to check the Wikipedia page about him. You will find a lot of things about him and about his contributions. I have to say it took me quite some time to read it all ^_^

Source: Wikipedia;

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