He is one of the great mathematicians of the 19th century, perhaps of all times. A founding father of modern Group Theory – a branch of algebra with immense applications in all sciences, theoretical and applied -he’s the inventor of Galois Theory, the body of theorems that bears his name, the theoretical basis for the branch of pure mathematics called field extensions. He was born on 25 October 1811 in Bourg-La-Reine, and died in a duel on 31 May 1832.
The sum of his written work fits in 60 handwritten pages, arguably one of the great works of the human mind. An undomitable rebel, and determined republican in the age of the Restoration, he failed his examination for the entry to Ecole Polytechique, and was famously expelled from the Ecole Normale, then the two highest churches of French scientific education. His death was probably caused by his friendship with a lady, poetically named Stéphanie-Félicie Poterin du Motel, whose injury he sought to repair, all twenty year-old he was, against an experienced duellist who wounded him mortally with one shot.
On the eve of the duel he wrote to his friend Auguste Chevalier, a long letter which remains his mathematical testament.
On the day, he told his brother Alfred:
“Ne pleures pas, Alfred ! J’ai besoin de tout mon courage pour mourir à vingt ans ! ”
- History of Mathematics undergraduate essay prize (de-morgan.org)