HISTORY OF MODERN SCIENCE: THE 18th CENTURY “MECHANICS”

*Actually, they all seemed to be interested in just about everything.*

**Daniel Bernoulli** (1700-1782) is best known for his work in fluid mechanics, in particular for his discovery that pressure decreases as flow speed increases – a fact that today keeps carburetors running and fixed-wing planes in the air.

**Leonhard Euler** (1707-1783), Swiss mathematician and physicist sometimes called “the Galileo of mathematical physics,” did ground-breaking work across many fields. He discovered Euler’s number, e, the second most important constant in physics, after pi.

He also introduced much of modern mathematical terminology and notation, for example, the notion of a mathematical function. Thus, Euler is justifiably remembered as a mathematician. However, he is also known for his work in mechanics, fluid dynamics, optics, astronomy, and music theory. [wp]

**Joseph Fourier** (1768-1830) was a pioneer in theories of heat and vibration. The technique he invented for this work – representing complex waves by adding together simpler waves – is now used everywhere in science and engineering.

**Thomas Young** (1773-1829) pioneered the “double-slit” experiment: shining a light through two narrow slits, he produced a pattern akin to the one produced by two overlapping water waves. This demonstration of the wave nature of light later became central to quantum mechanics.

Young made notable scientific contributions in the fields of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, and language. He also advanced European understanding of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs (notably, those on the famous Rosetta Stone). [wp]

**Carl Friedrich Gauss** / **Gauß **(1777-1855), called “the prince of mathematicians” by his contemporaries, is now best remembered for his “normal” (or Gaussian) distributions, which plot how likely things are to vary from average.

A German mathematician and physical scientist, he contributed significantly to many fields - in mathematics: number theory, algebra, statistics, analysis, differential geometry. In physics, he did work in geophysics, electrostatics, astronomy, and optics. [wp]

**William Hamilton** (1805-1865) reformulated Newtonian mechanics into what is now known as Hamiltonian mechanics. In doing so, he wrote the mathematical language in which modern physics, especially quantum theory, is expressed.

Sir William Rowan Hamilton was an Irish physicist, astronomer, and mathematician, who made important contributions to classical mechanics, optics, and algebra. [wp]

THE SCIENTIFIC TYPOGRAPHIES OF Dr. Prateek Lala: artistic representations of more than 50 influential physicists, cosmologists, and mathematicians – from Anaximander up to Stephen Hawking.

*Images and descriptions reprinted (with revisions) from:* Perimeter Institute

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