- Abel , Niels Henrik
- (1802–1829) Norwegian mathematicianAbel was born in Froland, the son of a poor pastor; he was educated in mathematics at the University of Christiana (Oslo). After the death of his father, Abel had to support a large family; he earned what he could by private teaching and was also helped out by his teacher. He was eventually given a grant by the Norwegian government to make a trip to France and Germany to visit mathematicians. In Germany he met the engineer and mathematician August Crelle, who was to be of great assistance to him. Crelle published Abel's work and exerted what influence he could to obtain him a post in Germany. Tragically Abel died just when Crelle had succeeded in getting him the chair in mathematics at Berlin.With Evariste Galois (whom he never met), Abel founded the theory of groups (commutative groups are known as Abelian groups in his honor), and his early death ranks as one of the great tragedies of 19th-century mathematics. One of Abel's first achievements was to solve the longstanding problem of whether the general quintic (of the fifth degree) equation was solvable by algebraic methods. He showed that the general quintic is not solvable algebraically and sent this proof to Karl Gauss, but unfortunately Gauss threw it away unread, having assumed that it was yet another unsuccessful attempt to solve the quintic.Abel's greatest work was in the theory of elliptic and transcendental functions. Mathematicians had previously focused their attention on problems associated with elliptic integrals. Abel showed that these problems could be immensely simplified by considering the inverse functions of these integrals – the so-called ‘elliptic functions’. He also proved a fundamental theorem,Abel's theorem, on transcendental functions, which he submitted to Augustin Cauchy (and unfortunately fared no better than he did with Gauss). The study of elliptic functions inaugurated by Abel was to occupy many of the best mathematicians for the remainder of the 19th century. He also made very important contributions to the theory of infinite series.
Scientists. Academic. 2011.