Synopses & Reviews
This scientific biography of the mathematician Joseph Liouville is divided into two parts. The first part is a chronological account of Liouville's career including a description of the institutions he worked in, his relations with his teachers, colleagues and students, and the historical context of his works. It portrays the French scientific community in a period when Germany and England had surpassed France as the leading nations in mathematics and physics. The second part of the book gives a detailed analysis of Liouville's major contributions to mathematics and mechanics. The gradual development of Liouville's ideas, as reflected in his publications and notebooks, are related to the works of his predecessors and his contemporaries as well as to later developments in the field. On the basis of Liouville's unpublished notes the book reconstructs Liouville's hitherto unknown theories of stability of rotating masses of fluid, potential theory, Galois theory and electrodynamics. It also incorporates valuable added information from Liouville's notes regarding his works on differentiation of arbitrary order, integration in finite terms, Sturm-Liouville theory, transcendental numbers, doubly periodic functions, geometry and mechanics.
Synopsis
Joseph Liouville was the most important French mathematician in the gen- eration between Galois and Hermite. This is reflected in the fact that even today all mathematicians know at least one of the more than six theorems named after him and regularly study Liouville's Journal, as the Journal de Mathematiques pures et appliquees is usually nicknamed after its creator. However, few mathematicians are aware of the astonishing variety of Liou- ville's contributions to almost all areas of pure and applied mathematics. The reason is that these contributions have not been studied in their histor- ical context. In the Dictionary of Scientific Biography 1973, Taton 1973] gave a rather sad but also true picture of the Liouville studies carried out up to that date: The few articles devoted to Liouville contain little biographical data. Thus the principal stages of his life must be reconstructed on the ba- sis of original documentation. There is no exhausti ve list of Liou ville's works, which are dispersed in some 400 publications .... His work as a whole has been treated in only two original studies of limited scope those of G. Chrystal and G. Loria. Since this was written, the situation has improved somewhat through the publications of Peiffer, Edwards, Neuenschwander, and myself. Moreover, C. Houzel and I have planned on publishing Liouville's collected works.
Description
Includes bibliographical references (p. [789]-853) and index.