Here’s our alphabetical list of the most popular mathematicians or contributors to mathematics on the Famous Scientists website, ordered by surname.
Discovered a general method to find the sum of any integral power and hence the volume of a paraboloid; solved ‘Alhazen’s problem’ concerning the reflection of light from curved surfaces.
Founded the sciences of mechanics and hydrostatics, calculated pi precisely, devised the law of exponents, created new geometrical proofs, invented numerous ingenious mechanical devices and more.
In the 1830s Babbage designed the world’s first first general-purpose programmable computer.
Discovered the Bernoulli Effect explaining how aircraft wings generate lift; formulated a kinetic theory relating particle speeds in gases to temperature; made major discoveries in the theory of risk.
Established zero as a number and defined its mathematical properties; discovered the formula for solving quadratic equations.
One of the greatest philosophers of all time; advocate of skepticism in the scientific method; creator of new mathematical ideas including the independent founding of analytical geometry. Cartesian coordinates are named in his honor.
Known as the father of algebra; solved hundreds of algebraic equations in his great work Arithmetica; first to use algebraic notation and symbolism.
Devised the famous prime number sieve; accurately calculated Earth’s size 2,500 years ago; founded the science of geography.
Authored the Elements, the most famous and most published mathematical work in history; another great work, Optics, explained light’s behavior using geometrical principles – the basis of artistic perspective, astronomical methods, and navigation methods for more than two thousand years.
Created the first mathematical model of the universe; produced the first rigorous definition of real numbers; developed the method of exhaustion and used it to prove the formulas for cone and pyramid volumes.
Published more mathematics than any other single mathematician, much of it groundbreaking. An astonishing fraction of the total research work in mathematics and the physical sciences between 1730 and 1780 was carried out solely by Euler.
Co-founded the disciplines of analytic geometry and probability theory and was a key player in the invention of calculus. There’s more to Fermat than his famous last theorem.
The rebirth of Western mathematics: Fibonacci’s Book of Calculation introduced the Indian number system, now used worldwide, to Europe.
Invented experimental design; devised the statistical concept of variance; unified evolution by natural selection with Mendel’s rules of inheritance, so defining the new field of population genetics.
Creator of Scientific American’s Mathematical Games column; became the twentieth century’s greatest popularizer of mathematics; prime mover in founding the skeptic movement against pseudoscience.
The last master of all mathematics, Gauss revolutionized number theory and invented the method of least squares and the fast Fourier transform. His profound contributions to the physical sciences include Gauss’s Law & Gauss’s Law for Magnetism.
Self-taught mathematican who pretended she was a man. Developed elasticity theory and made significant progress in her personal program to prove Fermat’s last theorem.
Gibbs invented vector analysis and founded the sciences of modern statistical mechanics and chemical thermodynamics.
Transformed algebra from a field based mainly on word equations to today’s concise discipline based on symbols. Probably the first person to observe sunspots with a telescope, allowing him to determine the sun’s rotation rate.
Famed for his 23 problems, Hilbert propelled mathematics to new heights. He replaced Euclid’s axioms dating from 2,000 years earlier, allowing the unification of 2D and 3D geometry; and he created Hilbert Space, now essential in advanced physical science.
One of antiquity’s greatest scientists: founded the mathematical discipline of trigonometry; measured the earth-moon distance accurately; discovered the precession of the equinoxes; and documented the positions and magnitudes of over 850 stars. His combinatorics work was unequalled until 1870.
Pioneer of electronic computers: invented the first compiler; was the principal architect of COBOL, the most widely used computer language of the twentieth century.
The greatest mathematician of her time, Hypatia’s murder signaled the coming of the dark ages.
A poet, philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, Khayyam calculated the length of a year to the most accurate value ever, and showed how the intersections of conic sections can be utilized to yield geometric solutions of cubic equations.
Discovered the solar system’s planets follow elliptical paths; identified the tides are caused mainly by the moon; proved how logarithms work; discovered the inverse square law of light intensity; his laws of planetary motion led Newton to his law of gravitation.
Principle founder of the calculus of variations; coined the word derivative; introduced the ∂ notation and created the first partial differential equations; was a founder of group theory.
The mother of computing science; contributed to the first published computer program; was the first person to see that computers could do more than mathematical calculations, recognizing that musical notes and letters of the alphabet could be turned into numbers for manipulation by computers.
Profoundly changed our understanding of nature with his law of universal gravitation and his laws of motion; invented calculus, the field of mathematics that dominates the physical sciences; generalized the binomial theorem; built the first ever reflecting telescope; showed sunlight is made of all the colors of the rainbow.
Probably the greatest female mathematician in history, Noether’s theorem revealed a fundamental property of our universe, that for every conservation law there is an invariant. Her founding work in abstract algebra revolutionized mathematics.
Invented the slide-rule, producing an upsurge in calculation speeds and accelerated scientific progress; introduced the familiar multiplication × sign.
The first mathematical description of chaos; founded algebraic topology; gave the modern form of the Lorentz transformations; originator of the famous Poincaré conjecture.
Produced an alternative statement of Euclid’s famously problematical parallel postulate: Proclus’s version came to be known as Playfair’s Axiom after it was restated by John Playfair in 1846.
Believed the universe was constructed using mathematics and everything could be described with numbers; established a link between mathematics and music; proved Pythagoras’s theorem; discovered irrational numbers; discovered the Platonic Solids.
First to apply the statistical normal distribution to characteristics of human populations; introduced the height-weight measure we know today as the body mass index.
A largely self-taught pure mathematician, he enriched number theory with thousands of new identities, equations and theorems.
Transformed geometry with curved space and n-dimensional space providing the mathematical foundation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity; provided the first rigorous definition of the integral; the Riemann hypothesis has become the most famous unresolved problem in mathematics – its holy grail.
Self-taught mathematician and polymath; bestselling popularizer of science; acclaimed for her translation and revision of Pierre Laplace’s groundbreaking book on celestial mechanics.
Founded the modern science of ballistics; refuted Aristotle’s claim that air sustained motion; provided general solutions for cubic equations.
The first scientist in history, Thales looked for patterns in nature to explain the way the world worked. He replaced superstitions with science. He was the first person to use deductive logic to find new results in geometry.
The father of Hypatia; Theon’s edition of Euclid’s Elements supplanted all others, including the original – Theon simplified some of Euclid’s proofs and added new proofs of his own to the Elements.
A founder of infinitesimal calculus; introduced the ∞ symbol for infinity; the first person to use the number line with both positive and negative numbers; a champion of algebra; discovered the concept of conservation of momentum.