Monday, July 6, 2020

Christiaan Huygens: the founder of modern mathematical physics

Christiaan Huygens Dutch mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, who founded the wave theory of light, discovered the true shape of the rings of Saturn, and made original contributions to the science of dynamics—the study of the action of forces on bodies.

Christiaan Huygens was born on 14 April 1629 in den Haag (the Hague), the second child of the poet and statesman Constantijn Huygens and his wife, Suzanna van Baerle.  Christiaan’s father was one of the best-known poets and authors of the Netherlands, and Christiaan was taught at home by his father and private tutors.

From May 1645 until March 1647 Christiaan studies law and mathematics at the University of Leiden, the oldest university in the Netherlands. He studied classical mathematics as well as the modern methods of Viéte, Descartes, and Fermat.

Christiaan took courses from Franz van Schootens, the best-known mathematician  in the Netherlands at that time, and a friend of (and prominent exponent of the ideas of) Descartes.

In 1651, Huygens was to discover a well-concealed flaw in the vast work of Gregorius van Saint-Vincent on the quadrature of the circle [the surface area under the segment of a circle], meriting this praise from Van Schooten for his work.

Huygens at first concentrated on mathematics: determinations of quadratures and cubatures, and algebraic problems inspired by Pappus’ works. In 1651 the Theoremata de quadratura hyperboles, ellipsis et circuli appeared, Huygens was to discover a well-concealed flaw in the vast work of Gregorius van Saint-Vincent on the quadrature of the circle [the surface area under the segment of a circle], meriting this praise from Van Schooten for his work.

In 1656 Huygens invented the pendulum clock. In 1664 Thévenot approached Huygens to offer him membership in an academy to be founded in Paris; Colbert proposed giving official status and financial aid to those informal meetings of scholars which had been held in Paris since Mersenne’s time. In 1666 Huygens became one of the founding members of the French Academy of Sciences, which granted him a pension larger than that of any other member and an apartment in its building.

Huygens wrote his greatest works - the Horologium Oscillatorium and the Treatise on Light – retired from the public eye in his home in Holland due to ill health.

In 1694 Huygens fell ill. He did not recover. He died the following summer in The Hague on 8 July 1695.
Christiaan Huygens: the founder of modern mathematical physics
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