Scientists » Mathematicians » CHARLES HERMITE
|Full name||: Charles Hermite|
|Alias||: Charles Hermite|
|Animals||: The Horse|
|Father||: Ferdinand Hermite|
|Mother||: Madeleine Lallemand|
|Wife||: Louise Bertrand|
|Education||: Lycée Louis-le-Grand Lycée Henri-IV Nancy-Université École Polytechnique|
Charles Hermite was one of the most famous French mathematicians of the nineteenth century, who researched on orthogonal polynomials, algebra, elliptic functions and many other topics. Hermite’s works in mathematics remain unmatched even today. He was a man who fought for his rights despite his disability and has proven to be an inspiration to so many young and upcoming mathematicians. Hermite has also proven that genuine interests in a particular subject and skills matter rather than formal education. He devised interpolation procedure, which is popularly known as Hermite Interpolation, after him. He is also quite popular for his theory of algebraic forms, the arithmetic theory of quadratic forms and theories on elliptic and Abelian functions. Although Hermite was more into algebra than arithmetic, his profound work in arithmetic was continued by Hermann Minkowski later in the twentieth century. Read through the following section of this biography and learn more about this genius.
Initially Hermite studied at College de Nancy and later, went on to study in College Henry IV and Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Hermite’s dream was to study at Ecole Polytechnique for which he prepared all year long. He was trained by Catalan for his exams with Ecole Polytechnique. After a yearlong hard work, Hermite gained entry to Ecole Polytechnique where he was a student for a very short period of time. He was forced to leave the college because of his disability. However, he fought back and won his place at Ecole Polytechnique but with rigid conditions. Such strict conditions angered Hermite and he left the college even without graduating.
Although Hermite lost interest in studies, he never forgot to pay attention to the research work of Lagrange and Gauss, which helped him publish his two papers while at Louis le Grand. In fact, he described in one of the papers that the quintic theory cannot be solved by radicals. He did his graduation privately in a span of five years during which he befriended famous mathematicians like Joseph Bertrand and Carl Jacobi. He had come up with general solutions to the differential equations in terms of theta function. In 1847, he was awarded the certificate after having cleared baccalaureat examination, which most French students take up immediately after secondary education. He was also appointed by Ecole Polytechnique, the same institute that banned him from continuing education, as an admissions examiner and repetiteur.
Hermite was elected to the Academie des Sciences on 14 July 1856 and in the same year he converted to Roman Catholic religion upon the influence of Cauchy. He was appointed as maître de conference at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1892, and that position was specially created for him. Though he never had any formal education, he was on his way to become one of the most famous mathematicians in the world.
Hermite’s was greatly interested in algebra, where he made immense contribution to the theory of invariants. His other important contribution to the world of mathematics was the “reciprocity law”, which is a one-to-one relation between the co variants of fixed degree. But it was after he published his proof in 1873 that said ‘e’ is a transcendental number drew attention from all over the world. His work on quadratic forms and invariant theory that involved the reciprocity law resulted in a connection between number theories, transformations of Abelian functions and theta functions which added another feather to his cap.
Apart from being such a great mathematician, Hermite was also known for his teaching skills. He is regarded as one of the most inspiring teachers of the nineteenth century. He kept his topics simple while teaching, which aroused interest in most of his students. Some of his famous students included Henri Poincare and L. Bourguet, to name a few.
Hermite was born on December 24th, 1822 at Dieuze, Moselle located in the North-Eastern part of France. He was the sixth son to Ferdinand Hermite and Madeleine Lallemand. Hermite’s father was an engineer in a salt mine. By the time Charles Hermite turned seven, the family had to move to Nancy, another city in the North-East France, as their family business was moved to there.
Hermite had a defective right leg that crated a difficulty in walking. This caused his parents to worry too much as it was quite evident that this defect would pose a difficulty during the later stages of his life. In fact, they were right about it as it did pose a difficulty at one point of time in his life, when he set out to make his career. However, little Hermite accepted this defect with a broad smile on his face and had a very positive attitude towards life.
Hermite’s friendship with Joseph Bertrand turned out to be quite beneficial with respect to his personal life as he ended up marrying Bertrand’s sister Louise Bertrand. They had two daughters. One among them got married to Emile Picard; another daughter got married to G. Forestier. It is said that Picard later edited Hermite’s work. However, it is said that Hermite gained interest in Sanskrit and ancient Persian as he came under the influence of the famous philologist E. Boumoff.
Though Hermite was elected to the Academie des Sciences, he contracted small pox during the latter part of 1856, which deteriorated his health. It is believed that Hermite suffered from asthma attacks during his last days. However, the actual cause of his death is not known. Hermite passed away at the age of 78 on 14January 1901 in Paris.