(25 Oct 1811 - 31 May 1832)
French mathematician famous for his contributions to group theory. He solved various long-unanswered questions, including the impossibility of trisecting the angle and squaring the circle. Galois died at age 20, fatally wounded in a duel.
Science Quotes by Évariste Galois (2 quotes)
Science progresses by a series of combinations in which chance plays not the least role. Its life is rough and resembles that of minerals which grow by juxtaposition [accretion]. This applies not only to science such as it emerges [results] from the work of a series of scientists, but also to the particular research of each one of them. In vain would analysts dissimulate: (however abstract it may be, analysis is no more our power than that of others); they do not deduce, they combine, they compare: (it must be sought out, sounded out, solicited.) When they arrive at the truth it is by cannoning from one side to another that they come across it.
— Évariste Galois
English translation from manuscript, in Évariste Galois and Peter M. Neumann, 'Dossier 12: On the progress of pure analysis', The Mathematical Writings of Évariste Galois (2011), 263. A transcription of the original French is on page 262. In the following quote from that page, indicated deletions are omitted, and Webmaster uses parentheses to enclose indications of insertions above the original written line. “La science progresse par une série de combinaisons où le hazard ne joue pas le moindre rôle; sa vie est brute et ressemble à celle des minéraux qui croissent par juxtà position. Cela s’applique non seulement à la science telle qu’elle résulte des travaux d’une série de savants, mais aussi aux recherches particulières à chacun d’eux. En vain les analystes voudraient-ils se le dissimuler: (toute immatérielle qu’elle wst analyse n’est pas pas plus en notre pouvoir que des autres); ils ne déduisent pas, ils combinent, ils comparent: (il faut l’epier, la sonder, la solliciter) quand ils arrivent à la vérité, c’est en heurtant de côté et d’autre qu’il y sont tombés.” Webmaster corrected from typo “put” to “but” in the English text.
Unfortunately what is little recognized is that the most worthwhile scientific books are those in which the author clearly indicates what he does not know; for an author most hurts his readers by concealing difficulties.
— Évariste Galois
English version as given in Nicholas J. Rose, Mathematical Maxims and Minims (1988). Also seen (without citation) as an epigraph in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought From Ancient to Modern Times (1990), Vol. 2, 752. From the original French, “C’est que, malheureusement, on ne se doute pas que le livre le plus précieux du plus savant serait celui où il dirait tout ce qu’il ne sait pas, c’est qu’on ne se doute pas qu’un auteur ne nuit* jamais tant à ses lecteurs que quand il dissimule une difficulté.” In 'Deux Mémoires d’Analyse Pure par E. Galois: Préface' (8 Oct 1831), collected in Jules Tannery (ed.), Manuscrits de Évariste Galois (1908), 27. A footnote indicates that the word “nuit” comes from an indistinct original. Since “nuit” (night) is an obvious error, Webmaster suggests the word “bruit” might make better sense, but is open to a better suggestion.
Quotes by others about Évariste Galois (2)
No mathematician should ever allow him to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game. … Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty. There have been men who have done great work later; … [but] I do not know of a single instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty. … A mathematician may still be competent enough at sixty, but it is useless to expect him to have original ideas.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1941, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 70-71.
[As a young teenager] Galois read [Legendre's] geometry from cover to cover as easily as other boys read a pirate yarn.
Men of Mathematics (1937, 1986), 364.
- - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Galois's birth. 25 Oct