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Gauss

 This week's look in the vaults tells us about the German mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss... Karl Friedrich Gauss was born in Germany in 1777. He is regarded as one of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived. Gauss showed his talent for mathematics very early. One day when he was barely three years old, he overheard his father mumbling the payroll figures for the workers in his small brick-laying business. Carl listened and, working in his head, he found a mistake in his father's calculations! When he was about 10 years old his teacher gave the class a long problem to do to keep them occupied: they had to add together the first 100 whole numbers - this was before the days of calculators. Much to the amazement of the teacher, Gauss gave the correct answer in seconds. He had noticed that the numbers could be added in pairs to give 1 + 100 = 101; 2 + 99 = 101; 3 + 98 = 101 and so on. This meant that the total must be 50 x 101 = 5050. Shortly before his 19th birthday, Gauss became the first person to prove that a regular polygon with 17 sides can be constructed using only a compass and straight-edge. This was the first discovery in Euclidean geometry in 2000 years. In 1801 an asteroid Ceres was discovered but then disappeared from view. Gauss was able to predict exactly where it would reappear. Gauss devoted his life to the study of mathematics and was Professor of Mathematics at the University of Gottingen for nearly 50 years. His work influenced almost every area of the subject.

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