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Leonhard Euler (1707-1783)

Leonhard Euler was born in Basel on April 15th, 1707, and grew up at the vicarage of Riehen. At the age of 13 he attended the Basel university and progressed so rapidly in mathematics and physics - partly thanks to private lessons with the famous mathematician Johann Bernoulli - that in 1727 he was appointed to the newly founded Russian Academy at St. Petersburg. In 1747 he moved to the Berlin Academy revived by Friedrich II; and in 1766 he returned to Petersburg, where he died on September 18th, 1783.

Euler was a tremendously productive scientist: the index of his works comprises more than 800 research papers, published mainly in the journals of the most prestigious scientific academies throughout Europe. Although he never had regular teaching obligations, he authored influential textbooks on a great variety of subjects including differential and integral calculus, mechanics, ballistics und acoustics, astronomy, the theory of music and ship-building, as well as the Letters to a German Princess, a three-volume compendium of his century's views on all of natural science. The flow of Euler's creativity was not curbed even by the complete loss of his eyesight in 1771: for several decades after his death the Petersburg Academy regularly filled a great part of its publications with his research contributions.

There is no doubt that Leonhard Euler belongs among the great scientists of all time. His work exhibits a unique combination of broad interests and brilliant insights, it displays original ways of tackling challenges and incredible persistence in the pursuit of his ideas, and it shows a profound yet sympathetic appreciation of his predecessors' and colleagues' achievements. Euler is chiefly remembered as the leading mathematician of his time, but his works also comprise ground-breaking contributions to physics, astronomy, and engineering. Moreover, his vast correspondence yields fascinating insights into the development of his ideas and into the entire scientific community of the 18th century.

A more detailed tribute to Euler's life and works and some additional references can be found on the homepage of the Euler Commission, which is responsible for the edition of Euler's Collected Works. An article on the history of this Commission and ist actual work was published in the Newsletter of the European Mathematical Society (September 2007). A biography of Leonhard Euler by Emil A. Fellmann (1995) appeared in English translation for the Tercentenary in 2007.

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