5 Mathematicians that Changed the World

5 Mathematicians that Changed the World

April has arrived, and you know what that means? While many of you may have thought about Easter Eggs and spring planting, at TutorCam, we’re all about Math and Statistics Awareness Month.

Officially recognized in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Math and Statistics Awareness Month is a time for us to remember and celebrate all that humanity has achieved in the field of mathematics throughout history.

This year, we are highlighting 5 important contributors to Mathematics and Statistics.  You may have recognize some of these famous methematicians from recent movies such as the 2014 award winning film "The Imitation Game" or the 2016 highly acclaimed, "Hidden Figures".  

To honor these mathematicians that changed the course of history with the power of numbers, we thought we’d share some interesting facts about our top 5 picks.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing, born in June 1912 in London, England, was a jack of all trades in the STEM field.  Not only was he a mathematician, he was also a computer scientist, cryptanalyst, philosopher and biologist during his brief 42 years of life.

During his lifetime, he was one of the first to formalize the then, theoretical concepts of algorithms and computations. In 1936, Alan theorized the "Turing Machine", a computing device that would simulate algorithms at lightning speed. This visualization would trailblaze the way for computers developed long after his time. Alan Turing is now recognized as being the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

In addition to that, Alan Turing played a pivotal role during WWII. He worked for the British code-breaking center.  Using his techniques, he significantly sped up the process of breaking German ciphers and intercepting code messages that eventually allowed the Allies to defeat the Nazis.  Not only is he attributed with ending WWII sooner, his work also saved an estimated 21 million lives.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson, born in August 1918, was an American mathematician with an impressive lifetime of contributions to Aerospace.  Her 33-year career at NASA included groundbreaking achievements such as mastering complex manual calculations and was one of the first people to use computers to perform those calculations.

If that first wasn't enough, she also was the first African American woman to work as a NASA scientist. Katherine Johnson calculated trajectories, launch windows and emergency return paths for Alan Shepard and John Glenn (the first Americans in space and orbit). She was at the forefront of projecting flight paths for the Apollo. Towards the end of her career, she played a key role in preparing for missions to Mars.

Katherine received the highest civilian award that can be given in the United States, The Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her esteemed recognitions also include the Congressional Gold Medal and, as of this year, induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Blaise Pascal

Beyond the 1900 achievements of the previous two Mathematicians that changed the world, it is often easy to forget Blaise Pascal, born in 1623. Pascal was a french mathematician, physicist, and inventor, notable for his ideas on Probability Theory.

Blaise was one of the first inventors of the mechanical calculator, spearheaded findings around pressure, vacuums, and hydraulics. Blaise Pascal undoubtedly changed the course of the STEM field and modern society through actualizing these concepts.

Blaise Pascal’s compelling story has been immortalized in the 1969 film, My Night at Maud's, as well as documentaries featuring his life and work through BBC Two.  A programming language was named after Pascal, but his recognition doesn’t end there. Video games and movies like Nier: Automata, Animal Crossing, and even Tangled extend a respectful nod to his life and brilliance as a mathematician.

Sofya Kovalevskaya

Born in Russia in 1850, Sofya Kovalevskaya pioneered the way for women in mathematics around the world.  She became the first woman to obtain a doctorate, the first woman to obtain professorship in northern Europe, and the first woman to become an editor for a scientific journal.

Among her work, which included partial differential equations, mechanics and analysis, she wrote and defended her dissertation on the dynamics of Saturn's rings and elliptic integrals. In her "spare" time she was heavily involved in non-mathematical writing on topics such as feminism, a memoir, two plays and a novel.

Augusta Ada Bryon

Augusta Ada Byron, also known as Ada Lovelace, was an English mathematician and writer born in 1815.  When she was just 17, she acquired an insatiable desire for knowledge in the field of mathematics, which remained with her throughout her adult years. She was trained by mathematicians and scientists such as Augstus De Morgan, Willian Frend, William King, and Mary Somerville.

Her love of math coincided with her love of poetry. Augusta claimed that together, intuition and imagination were crucial in applying concepts mathematically and scientifically.  She accomplished extraordinary feats in her short 36-year life. 

In 1842, Augusta translated from Italian to English Luigi Babbage's lecture on his Analytical Engine. Her notes, which were later published along with the lecture, provided more in depth and categorized concepts describing an algorithm for Babbage's Analytical Engine to compute "Bernoulli numbers", a sequence of rational numbers which occur frequently in number theory.

Due to her dedication to math and extensive work with Babbage, she is often regarded as one of the first computer programmers.

These icons in the fields of mathematics, engineering, science and philosophy laid the groundwork for modern technology while facing impossible odds both personally and professionally. We can’t help but draw inspiration from their brilliance and crucial contributions that have shaped our world today.

Which Mathematicians inspire you?  Let's celebrate these amazing icons together! Join our community on social (@tutorcam) or share in the comments below.

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