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Encyclopedia > Henri Poincaré
Henri Poincaré, photograph from the frontispiece of the 1913 edition of "Last Thoughts"
Henri Poincaré, photograph from the frontispiece of the 1913 edition of "Last Thoughts"

Jules Henri Poincaré (April 29, 1854July 17, 1912) was one of France's greatest mathematicians, theoretical scientists and a philosopher of science. Poincaré (pronounced (IPA) BrE: [ˈpwæŋ kæ reɪ]; AmE: [ˌpwɑːŋ kɑː ˈreɪ] [1] (http://www.bartleby.com/61/wavs/3/P0400300.wav); Fr: [pwæ̃ ka ʁe]) is often described as the last "universalist" capable of understanding and contributing in virtually all parts of mathematics. Henri Poincaré, Photograph from the frontispiece of the 1913 edition of ‘Last thoughts’ and therefore published prior to 1923 This image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other jurisdictions. ... April 29 is the 119th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (120th in leap years). ... 1854 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... July 17 is the 198th day (199th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 167 days remaining. ... 1912 is a leap year starting on Monday. ... The philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy which studies the philosophical foundations, presumptions and implications of science both of the natural sciences like physics and biology and the social sciences such as psychology and economics. ... The International Phonetic Alphabet is a phonetic alphabet used by linguists to accurately and uniquely represent each of the wide variety of sounds (phones or phonemes) the human vocal apparatus can produce. ... Received Pronunciation (RP) is a form of pronunciation of the English language, sometimes defined as the educated spoken English of southeastern England. According to the Fowlers Modern English Usage (1965), the term is the Received Pronunciation. RP speech is non-rhotic, meaning that written r is pronounced only if... American English or U.S. English is the diverse form of the English language used mostly in the United States of America. ... French (français, langue française) is one of the most important Romance languages, outnumbered in speakers only by Spanish and Portuguese. ...


He made many original fundamental contributions to mathematics, mathematical physics, and celestial mechanics. He was responsible for formulating the Poincaré conjecture, one of the most famous problems in mathematics. In his research on the three-body problem, Poincaré became the first person to discover a chaotic deterministic system and laid the foundations of modern chaos theory. Poincaré anticipated Albert Einstein's work and sketched a preliminary version of the special theory of relativity. The Poincaré group was named after him. History Main article: History of mathematics In addition to recognizing how to count concrete objects, prehistoric peoples also recognized how to count abstract quantities, like time -- days, seasons, years. ... Mathematical physics is an interdisciplinary field of academic study in between mathematics and physics, aimed at studying and solving problems inspired by physics within a mathematically rigorous framework. ... Celestial mechanics is a term for the application of physics, historically Newtonian mechanics, to astronomical objects such as stars and planets. ... In mathematics, the Poincaré conjecture is a conjecture about the characterisation of the three-dimensional sphere amongst 3-manifolds. ... The n-body problem is the problem of finding, given the initial positions, masses, and velocities of n bodies, their subsequent motions as determined by classical mechanics, i. ... Chaos theory, in mathematics and physics, deals with the behavior of certain nonlinear dynamical systems that (under certain conditions) exhibit the phenomenon known as chaos, most famously characterised by sensitivity to initial conditions (see butterfly effect). ... Portrait of Albert Einstein taken by Yousuf Karsh on February 11, 1948 Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955) was a theoretical physicist who is widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century. ... Special relativity (SR) or the special theory of relativity is the physical theory published in 1905 by Albert Einstein. ... In physics and mathematics, the Poincaré group is the group of isometries of Minkowski spacetime. ...

Contents

Life

Poincaré was born on April 29, 1854 in Nancy into an influential family, his father Leon was a professor of medicine at the University of Nancy and his cousin Raymond Poincaré was to be the President of France 1913 to 1920. His adored younger sister Aline married the spiritual philosopher Emile Boutroux. April 29 is the 119th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (120th in leap years). ... 1854 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... This article is about the city in France named Nancy. ... Raymond Poincaré, President of the French Republic during the Great War. ... 1913 is a common year starting on Wednesday. ... 1920 is a leap year starting on Thursday (link will take you to calendar) Events January January 7 - Forces of Russian White admiral Kolchak surrender in Krasnoyarsk. ... Emile Boutroux, French philosopher Éteinne Émile Marie Boutroux (July 28, 1845 - November 22, 1921) was an eminent 19th century French philosopher of Science and Religion, and an historian of Philosophy. ...


During his childhood he was seriously ill for a time with diphtheria and received special instruction from his gifted mother, Eugénie. He excelled in written composition.


In 1862 Henri entered the Lycée in Nancy (now renamed the Lycée Henri Poincaré in his honour). He spent eleven years at the Lycée and during this time he proved to be one of the top students in every topic he studied. His mathematics teacher described him as a "monster of mathematics" and he won first prizes in the concours général, a competition between the top pupils from all the Lycées across France. 1862 - Wikipedia /**/ @import /skins/monobook/IE50Fixes. ...


Poincaré entered the École Polytechnique in 1873. There he studied mathematics as a student of Charles Hermite, graduating in 1875. He went on to study at the École des Mines, continuing to study mathematics in addition to the mining engineering syllabus and received the degree of ordinary engineer in March 1879. The cadets of Polytechnique rushed to the defense of Paris against the foreign armies in 1814. ... Charles Hermite (pronounced air meet) (December 24, 1822 - January 14, 1901) was a French mathematician who did research on number theory, quadratic forms, invariant theory, orthogonal polynomials, elliptic functions, and algebra. ... 1875 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... The École nationale supérieure des Mines de Paris (also known as École des Mines de Paris, ENSMP, les Mines, Mines Paris) is one of the French generalist and most prominent engineering Grandes Ecoles. ... 1879 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ...


As a graduate of the École des Mines he joined the Corps des Mines as an inspector for the Vesoul region in north east France. He was on the scene of a mining disaster at Magny in August 1879 in which 18 miners died. He carried out the official investigation into the accident in a characteristically thorough and humane way. The Corps of Mines is the foremost of the great technical corps of the French state. ... Vesoul is a French city and commune located in the Haute-Saône département. ... There are communes in France that have the name Magny (pro. ... 1879 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ...


Soon after, he was offered a post as junior lecturer in mathematics at Caen University. He never fully abandoned his mining career to mathematics however and became chief engineer of the Corps de Mines in 1893 and inspector general in 1910. Location within France Caen is a city and a commune of northwestern France. ... 1893 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... 1910 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ...


He began work on his doctoral thesis, which was in the field of differential equations. Poincaré devised a new way of studying the properties of these functions. He not only faced the question of determining the integral of such equations, but also was the first person to study their general geometric properties. He realised that they could be used to model the behaviour of multiple bodies in free motion within the solar system. In mathematics, a differential equation is an equation in which the derivatives of a function appear as variables. ... Mosaic of the planets of the solar system, excluding Pluto, and including Earths Moon. ...


Beginning in 1881 and for the rest of his career, he taught at the University of Paris, (the Sorbonne). There he held the chairs of Physical and Experimental Mechanics, Mathematical Physics and Theory of Probability, and Celestial Mechanics and Astronomy. 1881 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... The Sorbonne, Paris, in a 17th century engraving The historic University of Paris (French: Université de Paris) first appeared in the second half of the 12th century, but was in 1970 reorganized as 13 autonomous universities (University of Paris I–XIII). ... The Sorbonne, Paris, in a 17th century engraving The Sorbonne today, from the same point of view The historic University of Paris (French: Université de Paris) first appeared in the second half of the 12th century, but was in 1970 reorganized as 13 autonomous universities (University of Paris I–XIII). ...


In 1885 Oscar II, King of Sweden sponsored a mathematical competition with a cash prize for a resolution of the question of how stable is the solar system, a variation of the three-body problem. While Poincaré did not succeed in giving a complete solution, his work was so impressive that in 1888 he was awarded the prize anyway. Poincaré found that the evolution of such a system is often chaotic in the sense that a small perturbation in the initial state such as a slight change in one body's initial position might lead to a radically different later state. If the slight change isn't detectable by our measuring instruments, then we won't be able to predict which final state will occur. One of the judges, the distinguished Karl Weierstrass, said, "this work cannot indeed be considered as furnishing the complete solution of the question proposed, but that it is nevertheless of such importance that its publication will inaugurate a new era in the history of celestial mechanics." 1885 is a common year starting on Thursday. ... Oscar II boating. ... The n-body problem is the problem of finding, given the initial positions, masses, and velocities of n bodies, their subsequent motions as determined by classical mechanics, i. ... 1888 is a leap year starting on Sunday (click on link for calendar). ... Karl Theodor Wilhelm Weierstraß (October 31, 1815 – February 19, 1897) was a German mathematician who is often cited as the father of modern analysis. (The letter ß may be transliterated as ss; one often writes Weierstrass. ...


At the young age of 32 in 1887 Poincaré was elected to the French Academy of Sciences, became its president in 1906, and was elected to the Académie française in 1909. 1887 is a common year starting on Saturday (click on link for calendar). ... The French Academy of Sciences (Académie des sciences) is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research. ... 1906 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... The Académie française, or French Academy, is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language. ... 1909 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ...


In 1893 he joined the French Bureau des Longitudes which engaged him in the synchronisation of time around the world. In 1897 he backed an unsuccessful proposal for the decimalisation of circular measure and hence time and longitude. This work led him to consider how clocks moving at high speed with respect to each other could be synchronised. In 1898 in “The Measure of Time” he formulated the principle of relativity, according to which no mechanical or electromagnetic experiment can discriminate between a state of uniform motion and a state of rest. In collaboration with the Dutch theorist Hendrik Lorentz he went on to push the physics of the time to the limit to explain the behaviour of fast moving electrons. It was Albert Einstein however, who was prepared to reconstruct the entire edifice of physics, who produced the successful new relativity model. 1893 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... The Bureau des Longitudes is a French scientific institution, founded by decree of June 25, 1795 and charged with the improvement of nautical navigation, standardisation of time-keeping, geodesy and astronomical observation. ... 1897 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... Map of Earth showing curved lines of longitude Longitude, sometimes denoted λ, describes the location of a place on Earth east or west of a north-south line called the Prime Meridian. ... 1898 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (July 18, 1853, Arnhem – February 4, 1928, Haarlem) was a Dutch physicist and the winner of the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on electromagnetic radiation. ... Portrait of Albert Einstein taken by Yousuf Karsh on February 11, 1948 Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955) was a theoretical physicist who is widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century. ...


He was responsible for formulating one of the most famous problems in mathematics. Known as the Poincaré conjecture it is a problem in topology and is still not fully resolved today. In mathematics, the Poincaré conjecture is a conjecture about the characterisation of the three-dimensional sphere amongst 3-manifolds. ... Topology (Greek topos, place and logos, study) is a branch of mathematics concerned with the study of topological spaces. ...


In 1899, and again more successfully in 1904, he intervened in the trials of Alfred Dreyfus. He attacked the spurious scientific claims of some of the evidence brought against Dreyfus who was a Jewish officer in the French army charged with treason by anti-Semitic colleagues. 1899 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... 1904 is a leap year starting on a Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... Alfred Dreyfus in an army uniform, wearing a mustache. ...


In 1900 he won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society of London. 1900 is a common year starting on Monday. ... The Gold Medal is the highest award of the Royal Astronomical Society. ...


In 1912 Poincaré underwent surgery for a prostate problem and subsequently died from an embolism on July 17, 1912. 1912 is a leap year starting on Monday. ... Male Anatomy The prostate is a gland that is part of male mammalian sex organs. ... In medicine, an embolism occurs when an object (the embolus, plural emboli) migrates from one part of the body (through the circulation) and cause(s) a blockage (occlusion) of a blood vessel in another part of the body. ... July 17 is the 198th day (199th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 167 days remaining. ... 1912 is a leap year starting on Monday. ...


Character

A contemporary biographer and psychologist E Toulouse who had studied him at work observed that Poincaré kept very precise working hours. He undertook mathematical research for four hours a day, between 10 am and noon then again from 5 pm to 7 pm. He would read articles in journals later in the evening. He had an exceptional memory and could recall the page and line of any item in a text he had read. He was also able to remember verbatim things heard by ear. He retained these abilities all his life. His normal work habit was to solve a problem completely in his head, then commit the completed problem to paper. He was ambidextrous and nearsighted. His ability to visualise what he heard proved particularly useful when he attended lectures since his eyesight was so poor that he could not see properly what his lecturers were writing on the blackboard. He was however physically clumsy and artistically inept. He was always in a rush and disliked going back for changes or corrections.


Work

Among the specific topics he contributed to are the following:

He was also a populariser of mathematics and physics and wrote several books for the lay public. Algebraic topology is a branch of mathematics in which tools from abstract algebra are used to study topological spaces. ... The theory of functions of several complex variables is the branch of mathematics dealing with functions f(z1, z2, ... , zn) on the space Cn of n-tuples of complex numbers. ... For the purposes of algebraic geometry over the complex numbers, an abelian variety is a complex torus (a torus of real dimension 2n that is a complex manifold) that is also a projective algebraic variety of dimension n, i. ... Algebraic geometry is a branch of mathematics which, as the name suggests, combines abstract algebra, especially commutative algebra, with geometry. ... Traditionally, number theory is that branch of pure mathematics concerned with the properties of integers. ... The n-body problem is the problem of finding, given the initial positions, masses, and velocities of n bodies, their subsequent motions as determined by classical mechanics, i. ... In mathematics, a Diophantine equation is a polynomial equation that only allows the variables to be integers. ... Electromagnetism is the physics of the electromagnetic field: a field, encompassing all of space, composed of the electric field and the magnetic field. ... A simple introduction to this subject is provided in Special relativity for beginners Special relativity (SR) or the special theory of relativity is the physical theory published in 1905 by Albert Einstein. ...


Publications

He published two major works that placed celestial mechanics on a rigorous mathematical basis:

  • New Methods of Celestial Mechanics ISBN 1563961172 (3 vols., 1892-99; Eng. trans., 1967)
  • Lessons of Celestial Mechanics. (1905-10).

In popular writings he helped establish the fundamental popular definitions and perceptions of science by these writings:

  • Science and Hypothesis, 1901.
  • The Value of Science, 1904.
  • Science and Method, 1908.
  • Dernières pensées (Eng., "Last Thoughts"); Edition Ernest Flammarion, Paris, 1913.

1901 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... 1904 is a leap year starting on a Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1908 is a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1913 is a common year starting on Wednesday. ...

References

  • Bell, Eric Temple (1986). Men of Mathematics (reissue edition). Touchstone Books. ISBN 0671628186.
  • Peterson, Ivars (1995). Newton's Clock: Chaos in the Solar System (reissue edition). W H Freeman & Co. ISBN 0716727242.
  • Galison, Peter Louis (2003). Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps: Empires of Time. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 034079447X.
  • E. Toulouse, Henri Poincaré, Paris (1910) - (Source biography in French)

Eric Temple Bell (1883 - 1960) was a mathematician born in Scotland who lived in the USA from 1903 until his death. ...

See also

In mathematics, the Poincaré conjecture is a conjecture about the characterisation of the three-dimensional sphere amongst 3-manifolds. ...

External links

image:wikiquote without text-35px.png
Wikiquote quotations related to:
  • Wikiquote - Quotes by Henri Poincaré (http://quote.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Poincaré)
  • A review of Poincaré's mathematical achievements (http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/p/poincare.htm)
  • A timeline of Poincaré's life (http://www.univ-nancy2.fr/ACERHP/documents/kronowww.html) (in French)
  • Poincaré's 1897 article "The Relativity of Space", English translation (http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/poincare.htm)
  • Henri Poincaré, His Conjecture, Copacabana and Higher Dimensions (http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=0003848D-1C61-10C7-9C6183414B7F0000)
Preceded by:
Armand Prudhomme
Seat 24
Académie française
Succeeded by:
Alfred Capus

 
 

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