Home > Mathematician of the Week Archive Detail

<< Prev 5/25/2014 Next >>

The following are actual comments written by teachers of a future esteemed mathematician...who is he?


[1] This pupil, though a little queer in his manners, is very gentle, and seems filled with innocence and good qualities....He never knows a lesson badly: either he has not learned it at all or he knows it well...

[2] This pupil, except for the last fortnight during which he worked very little, has done his classwork only from fear of punishment.... His ambition, his originality--often affected--the queerness of his character keep him aloof from his companions.

[3] Conduct rather good. A few thoughtless acts. Character of which I do not flatter myself I understand every trait; but I see a great deal of self-esteem dominating. I regard as much to literary studies as to mathematics.... He does not seem to lack religious feelings. His health is good but delicate.

[4] His facility, in which one is supposed to believe but of do not think he has any vicious inclination. His ability seems to me to be entirely beyond the average, with which I have not yet witnessed a single proof, will lead him nowhere; there is no trace in his tasks of anything but of queerness and negligence.

[5] Always busy with things which are not his business...

[6] Very bad conduct. Character rather secretive. Tries to be original.... Does absolutely nothing for the class. The furor of mathematics possesses him.... He is losing his time here and does nothing but torment his masters and get himself harasseed with punishments. He does not lack religious feelings; his health seems weak.

[7] Bad conduct, character difficult to define. Aims at originality. His talents are very distinguished; he might have done very well in "Rhetorique" if he had been willing to work, but swayed by his passion for mathematics, he has neglected everything else. Hence he has made no progress whatever.... Seems to affect to do something different from what he should do. it is possibly to this purpose that he chatters so much. he protests against silence.

[8] It is the passion for mathematics which dominates him, I think it would be best for him if his parents would allow him to study nothing but this, he is wasting his time here and does nothing but torment his teachers and overwhelm himself with punishments.

[9] This student has marked superiority over all his schoolmates. He works only at the highest parts of mathematics.


The first and final comments was written when our subject was 15 and 17 years old respectfully. Four years later, when of age 21, he was killed in a political/romantic duel.

The night before the duel while in prison, he wrote down seven pages of mathematics from his head...creative ideas that solved one of the greatest problems in mathematics---how does one know if an equation of degree 5 or greater is solvable by a "constructable" algebraic formula.

Answer: Évariste Galois (1811 - 1832)