Saturday, February 04, 2006

Mathmatically challenging

To say that I am mathmatically challenged would be an understatement. I was, and have always been a rather good student, but math is the subject that not only lowered my GPA, it lowered my self respect. Other than 10th grade Geometry, hard work and determination allowed me to stay above a C in all my math classes, but it wasn't easy. (Geometry was the exception, but we won't go there.)

So when my friend, Kyle, shared about a famous mathematician, you can bet I had never heard of him. But being the curious person that I am, I had to google.


Leonhard Euler

Just a quick skimming of the Wikipedia article linked above will confirm that this was an amazing man with an amazing intellect. He was born in 1707 and was a mathmatical child prodigy. According to the article he dominated the field of mathmatics in the 1700's. If you take the time to follow the link and read his accomplishments, you will see that this is an understatement! A prolific writer, he produced 70 volumes, half of which were written in the last 17 years of his life, when he was blind. To get an idea of just how prolific he was: "it has been estimated that it would take eight hours of work per day for 50 years to copy all his works by hand."

That's just copying! That doesn't include thinking and working and calculating and thinking and proving. . .

An amazing man! The article is full of amazing mathmatical feats (most of which I did not understand but impressed me, nonetheless!) And yet, the sentence that stands out to me was the one Kyle noted: Euler was a deeply religious Calvinist throughout his life.

Euler grew up, was educated, and produced all his mathematical magic during the Enlightenment, a volatile period after the Protestant Reformation in which enlightenment philosophy stripped God of His Sovereignty and many Scientists embraced Deism. If there was ever a time for a man of such brilliance to have occasion to reject "the old paths", this was the time. And yet Euler remained a deeply religious man, a Calvinist, all his life.

As a Calvinist, Euler believed in the absolute Sovereignty of God. He held on to the very characteristic of God that was being eroded in the minds of those who had embraced the Enlightenment. He "stood fast" in the midst of the darkness which was the "enlightenment".

This, to me, was the greatest accomplishment of Euler's life. And that, as every good Calvinist knows, was wrought in Christ Jesus.

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