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At the age of seven, Carl Friedrich Gauss started elementary school, and his potential was noticed almost immediately. His teacher, Büttner, and his assistant, Martin Bartels, were amazed when Gauss summed the integers from 1 to 100 instantly by spotting that the sum was 50 pairs of numbers each pair summing to... show more At the age of seven, Carl Friedrich Gauss started elementary school, and his potential was noticed almost immediately. His teacher, Büttner, and his assistant, Martin Bartels, were amazed when Gauss summed the integers from 1 to 100 instantly by spotting that the sum was 50 pairs of numbers each pair summing to 101.

In 1788 Gauss began his education at the Gymnasium with the help of Büttner and Bartels, where he learnt High German and Latin. After receiving a stipend from the Duke of Brunswick- Wolfenbüttel, Gauss entered Brunswick Collegium Carolinum in 1792. At the academy Gauss independently discovered Bode's law, the binomial theorem and the arithmetic- geometric mean, as well as the law of quadratic reciprocity and the prime number theorem.

In 1795 Gauss left Brunswick to study at Göttingen University. Gauss's teacher there was Kästner, whom Gauss often ridiculed. His only known friend amongst the students was Farkas Bolyai. They met in 1799 and corresponded with each other for many years.

Gauss left Göttingen in 1798 without a diploma, but by this time he had made one of his most important discoveries - the construction of a regular 17-gon by ruler and compasses This was the most major advance in this field since the time of Greek mathematics and was published as Section VII of Gauss's famous work, Disquisitiones Arithmeticae.

Gauss returned to Brunswick where he received a degree in 1799. After the Duke of Brunswick had agreed to continue Gauss's stipend, he requested that Gauss submit a doctoral dissertation to the University of Helmstedt. He already knew Pfaff, who was chosen to be his advisor. Gauss's dissertation was a discussion of the fundamental theorem of algebra.

With his stipend to support him, Gauss did not need to find a job so devoted himself to research. He published the book Disquisitiones Arithmeticae in the summer of 1801. There were seven sections, all but the last section, referred to above, being devoted to number theory.

In June 1801, Zach, an astronomer whom Gauss had come to know two or three years previously, published the orbital positions of Ceres, a new "small planet" which was discovered by G Piazzi, an Italian astronomer on 1 January, 1801. Unfortunately, Piazzi had only been able to observe 9 degrees of its orbit before it disappeared behind the Sun. Zach published several predictions of its position, including one by Gauss which differed greatly from the others. When Ceres was rediscovered by Zach on 7 December 1801 it was almost exactly where Gauss had predicted. Although he did not disclose his methods at the time, Gauss had used his least squares approximation method.

In June 1802 Gauss visited Olbers who had discovered Pallas in March of that year and Gauss investigated its orbit. Olbers requested that Gauss be made director of the proposed new observatory in Göttingen, but no action was taken. Gauss began corresponding with Bessel, whom he did not meet until 1825, and with Sophie Germain.

Gauss married Johanna Ostoff on 9 October, 1805. Despite having a happy personal life for the first time, his benefactor, the Duke of Brunswick, was killed fighting for the Prussian army. In 1807 Gauss left Brunswick to take up the position of director of the Göttingen observatory.

Gauss arrived in Göttingen in late 1807. In 1808 his father died, and a year later Gauss's wife Johanna died after giving birth to their second son, who was to die soon after her. Gauss was shattered and wrote to Olbers asking him to give him a home for a few weeks,

to gather new strength in the arms of your friendship - strength for a life which is only valuable because it belongs to my three small children.

Gauss was married for a second time the next year, to Minna the best friend of Johanna, and although they had three children, this marriage seemed to be one of convenience for Gauss.
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