The Genius Of Joseph Louis Lagrange


The only man who could rival Leonhard Euler in eighteenth century mathematics was Joseph Louis Lagrange.  He was born in 1736 into a French family living in Turin, Italy, as one of eleven children; and of these eleven children, only he survived the first few years of life.  Already the mathematics of probability were aligning in his favor.

His initial interests in life were literary and philological, especially in the Latin language, but he was directed towards mathematics by the chance reading of some writings by Sir Edmund Halley.  His incredible abilities were confirmed when, at the age of nineteen, he sent the mathematical titan Leonhard Euler a new method of analysis for the calculus of variations.  Lagrange’s solutions had charted waters that even the old Swiss genius had been unable to navigate.  Euler, with a graciousness rare in the history of academics, gave his young admirer full credit for the discovery.  He also had Lagrange elected in 1759 as a foreign member of the Berlin Academy.

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