Bernhard Riemann
1826 - 1865

Bernhard Riemann had the touch of gold. Everything he worked with, he revolutionized. He was born in 1826 to a Lutheran pastor, the second of six children. He was born in the little town of Hanover, Germany. He was a shy boy and young man when he was around people, but he was very bold in his scientific thought.

His dad was his first teacher and he began his first arithmetic at the age of six. He took right off and never stopped. At age ten, he took his instruction from a professional teacher, but the pupil soon began to be the teacher. When he was fourteen years old, Riemann lived with his grandmother, and he sent gifts to his family. One gift to his parents was an original perpetual calendar. He entered the University of Gottingen at the age of nineteen. These were the best years of his life.

In 1850 at the age of 24, Riemann wrote his first paper on the theory of functions of a complex variable. In 1854, he wrote his hypothesis on which geometry is founded. ďRiemannís hypothesis on geometry shows that as there are different kinds of lines and surfaces, so there are different kinds of space of three dimensions. The axioms of plane geometry are true within the limits of experiment on the surface of a sheet of paper, and yet we know that the sheet is really covered with a number of small ridges and furrows upon which the axioms are not true. As well they may not be true for very small portions of space.Ē1

Five years later, Riemann wrote a hypothesis on prime numbers that is still one of the outstanding challenges to mathematicians. His hypothesis on prime numbers was to determine how many prime numbers are less than any given number n. His equation is as follows:

where s is a complex number, say s = u + iv , i = , where u and v are real numbers, so chosen that the series converges. With this proviso, the infinite series is a definite function of s.2

Bernhard Riemann had poor health throughout much of his life. He contracted pleurisy at the age of 35 and passed away four years later. During his life, he held closely to his Christian faith and considered it to be the most important aspect of his life. At the time of his death, he was reciting the Lordís Prayer with his wife and passed away before they finished saying the prayer. He left her with one child. Sometimes peopleís lives are short, but they make great contributions while they are here. Bernhard Riemannís life was of this type.

Contributed by Bruce White


1 Ball, W.W. Rouse, A Short Account of the History of Mathematics, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1960, pp. 464-465.

2 Bell, E.T., Men of Mathematics, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1965, pp. 484-503.

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