Bernhard Riemann was an inspiring nineteenth century German mathematician. He is recognized for his contribution to differential geometry, analysis and number theory. He contributed to real analysis in the form of Riemann integral that became popular in his Fourier series. In fact, he is remembered for pioneering the mathematics of general relativity.
Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann was born on September 17, 1826 in a village Breselenz near Dannenberg in Hanoverian Kingdom (now Germany). He belonged to an underprivileged family and his father was a pastor who fought in Napoleonic Wars. He had five siblings and was the second of the six. His mother died before he reached his adulthood and also suffered multiple nervous breakdowns as a child. He was an extremely timid and shy child who perpetually suffered from social anxiety. At the same time he displayed incredible aptitude for mathematics.
Riemann attended middle school when he went to stay at his grandmother’s in Hanover. Then he went on to study at Johanneum Lüneburg high school, after his grandmother’s death. He was seen studying Bible rigorously in high school, simultaneously he had shown increasing interest in mathematics. His teachers were impressed by his proficient skills in solving complex mathematical problems.
Upon completion of high school he began planning to study philology to become a pastor like his father in order to support the family. In 1946, Riemann went to University of Göttingen to earn a degree in Theology which didn’t pan out as he decided to switch his major to mathematics. Carl Friedrich Gauss mentored and facilitated him in studying mathematics and also suggested him to quit his theological work and devote all his time to the discipline of his interest. In 1847, earning his father’s permission Riemann transferred to University of Berlin and following two years of studies he returned to Göttingen.
In 1854, he conducted lectures and ended up laying the foundation for Riemannian geometry. It also laid the groundwork for Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The University of Göttingen appointed him as a lecturer on a payroll in 1857, instead of a professor. However, he was promoted to the position of head the mathematics department following the death of Lejeune Dirichlet.
Riemann got married in 1862 to Elise Koch with whom he had a daughter. Four years later war broke out between Hanover and Prussia forcing Riemann to flee Göttingen. Upon his third trip to Italy he passed away and was buried in the cemetery in Biganzolo. Being a Protestant minister’s son he believed that the discipline of mathematics was another form of serving God. He was a firm believer in Christian Faith, it is reported that he died while reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
The analytic number theory was one of the most prominent contributions of Rienmann. He published several works in his lifetime on complex analysis. He proposed a theorem that is called Riemann mapping theorem. Other mathematics like Alfred Clebsch explored algebraic curves forwarded by Riemann. Riemann wrote Fourier series which influenced Georg Cantor to put forward the set theory. His paper on the prime-counting function is an inspiring work in the field of analytic number theory.