Mathematician of the Week: Pierre Wantzel


Pierre Wantzel was born on June 5, 1814, in Paris. At the age of 15, he “edited a second edition of Reynaud’s Treatise on arithmetic, giving a proof of a method for finding square roots which was widely used but previously unproved”. [MacTutor]

His interest in radicals continued throughout his career; his crowning achievement was the development of a criterion for determining which geometric problems were solvable by straight-edge and compass construction. (Equivalently, as Mascheroni had shown, constructible by compass alone.)

Wantzel died at a fairly early age (just prior to his 34th birthday), reportedly a victim of overwork, lack of sleep, irregular eating habits, and abuse of coffee and opiates.

Mathematicians with significant dates during June 1 – June 7:

June 1: Death of Kurt Hensel (1941) [invented p-adic numbers]

June 2: Birth of Tibor Radó [1895] (solution of Plateau Problem, existence of minimal surface bounded by a given contour); death of Otto Schreier [1929] (combinatorial group theory; theory of real closed fields)

June 3: Deaths of Leopold Gegenbauer [1903] (orthogonal polynomials) and Heinz Hopf [1971] (algebraic topology)

June 4: Deaths of Eugenio Beltrami [1900] (non-euclidean geometry on a pseudosphere), Ernst Lindelöf [1946] (behavior of power series near singular points), and Maurice Fréchet [1973] (introduced notion of abstract topological space)

June 5: Births of Pierre Wantzel [1814] (proofs of nonconstructability), and John Adams [1819] (predicted orbit of planet beyond Uranus); death of Roger Cotes [1716] (logarithms, continued fractions)

June 6: Births of Johann Regiomontanus [1436] (astronomy and trigonometry), Aleksandr Lyapunov [1857] (dynamics of rotating liquids), and Max Zorn [1906] (Zorn’s Lemma); death of Guido Fubini [1943] (analysis, calculus of variations)

June 7: Death of Alan Turing [1954] (foundations of computer science)


One Response to “Mathematician of the Week: Pierre Wantzel”

  1. Moodz4Modernz Says:

    Might want to visit this blogger. He’s a mathematician too.

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