Euler was born on April 15, 1707, in Basel Switzerland. His father, Paul Euler, a Calvinist minister, and his mother, Margaret Brucker, married the year before his birth. His interest and talent for mathematics showed itself early, and he received special instruction from Johann Bernoulli.
In 1720 Euler entered the University of Basel at the age of 14; there he discussed mathematics with Daniel Bernoulli.
In 1720 he joined the Department of Arts of the University of Basel, where he received the prima laurea in 1722 and in 1723 he earned a master’s degree in philosophy. He joined the Department of Theology, but devoted most of his time to mathematics.
In 1731 Euler moved to the department of physics as a professor. In 1733 Euler succeeded Daniel Bernoulli as first chair of mathematics at St. Petersburg. Frederick the Great invited Euler to become a member of the Berlin Academy in 1741 and he held joint appointments in Berlin and in St. Petersburg until he was appointed the director of the St. Petersburg Academy of Science in 1766.
His book Mechanica (1736-1737) provided the most mathematically sophisticated treatment of Newtonian and post-Newtonian mechanics to date, putting mechanics in analytic rather than geometric terms.
He also set forth, in New Theory of Light and Color (1746), a theory of light as vibration, as opposed to the dominant Newtonian the theory of light as a particle.
Euler wrote several papers on the physical constitution of celestial bodies (mainly on comets) as well as on celestial and terrestrial phenomena related to the Earth’s atmosphere or its magnetic field.
Euler’s devotion to his work lasted until the day he died, September 18, 18783, in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he spent time formulating laws of ascent for the recently invented hot-air balloon.
Euler, Leonhard (1707-83)