Niels Henrik Abel (1802 – 1829) was the greatest Norwegian mathematician of all time, and pioneered several disciplines in modern mathematics. Abel started his groundbreaking contributions to a wide range of topics while still a teenager, before entering university. At the age of 16, he proved the binomial theorem. Three years later, he proved that it is impossible to solve quintic equations, by independently inventing group theory and thus solving a problem that had been open for over 350 years. His main work was about a special kind of elliptic functions leading to establishing Abelian functions. He wrote a monumental work on elliptic functions, which was discovered only after his death: he died at the age of 26 from tuberculosis. An invitation for a professorship from the University of Berlin arrived two days after his death. During his short life, while living impoverished, he made mathematical discoveries about which the French mathematician Charles Hermite would say: “Abel has left mathematicians enough to keep them busy for five hundred years”. The ‘Abel Prize’ for mathematics, modelled after the Nobel Prize, is awarded yearly by the ‘Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters’.

Culture, Education, Norway, Science