Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), the son of a bricklayer, was a child prodigy
. He demonstrated his potential at the age of 10, when he quickly solved a problem assigned by a teacher to keep the class busy. The teacher asked the students to find the sum of the first 100 integers
. This brilliance attracted the sponsorhip of patrons, including Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick
, who made it possible for Gauss to attend Caroline College
and the University of Göttingen
. While a student, he invented the method of least squares
, which is used to estimate the most likely value of a variable from experimental results. In 1796 Gauss made a fundamental discovery in geometry
, advancing a subject that had not advanced since ancient times. He showed that a 17-sided regular polygon
could be drawn using just a ruler and compass
In 1799 Gauss presented the first rigorous proof of the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra, which states that a polynomial of degree n has exactly n roots (counting multiplicities). Gauss achived world-wide fame when he successfully calculated the orbit of the first asteroid discovered, Ceres, using scanty data.
Gauss was called the Prince of Mathematics by his contemporary matematicians. Although Gauss is noted for his many discoveries in geometry, algebra, analysis, and physics (Gauss' Law), he had a special interest in number theory, which can be seen from his statement "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences, and the theory of numbers is the queen of mathematics." Gauss laid the foundations for modern number theory with the publication of his book Disquisitiones Arithmeticae in 1801.
Sources: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive (http://www-groups.dcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/~history/), Encyclopedia Britannica, Discrete Math and Its Applications