June 1, 2007
Colloquium Speaker: William Dunham
William Dunham who received his B.S. (1969) from the University of Pittsburgh and his M.S. (1970) and Ph.D.(1974) from Ohio State, is the Truman Koehler Professor of Mathematics at Muhlenberg College. Trained in general topology, Dunham became interested in the history of mathematics. He has directed seminars funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities on math history at Ohio State and has spoken on historical topics at national and regional meetings as well as at the Smithsonian Institution, on NPR's "Talk of the Nation: Science Friday," and on the BBC. In the 1990s, Dunham wrote three books - Journey Through Genius (1990), The Mathematical Universe (1994), and Euler: The Master of Us All (1999) - and in the present century he has done two more: The Calculus Gallery: Masterpieces from Newton to Lebesgue (2005) and The Genius of Euler: Reflections on His Life and Work (2007). Dunham's expository writing has been recognized by the Mathematical Association of America with the George Pólya Award in 1993, the Trevor Evans Award in 1997, and the Lester Ford Award in 2006, and the Association of American Publishers designated The Mathematical Universe as the Best Mathematics Book of 1994.
This year we celebrate the 300th birthday of Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. The remarkable quality of his achievement is matched only by the equally remarkable quantity of his achievement - indeed, Euler's collected works contain over 25,000 pages of pure and applied mathematics. In this talk, we sketch his life and mention a few of his contributions to the mathematical sciences. Then we examine in detail a pair of Eulerian results: one regarding the "partitions" of whole numbers and the other establishing what is now known as "Euler's identity." These arguments should make clear why Euler is regarded as such a towering figure from the history of mathematics.