Abel Niels Henrik

(05.08.1802 - 06.04.1829)


The Norwegian mathematician is one of the most outstanding mathematicians of all mankind.

Born in Finney in the family of a pastor. Abel's childhood was overshadowed by poor health, as well as drunkenness and constant discord of his parents.

At school, thanks to teacher Bert Michael Holmboe, the boy became interested in mathematics. In his service report of 1819, Holmboe wrote about his 17-year-old student: With a superior genius, he combines insatiable interest and math to mathematics, so if he lives, he is likely to become a great mathematician.

In 1820 Abel's father died, and the family (six children) was on the verge of poverty. His older brother, Hansa-Mathias, was found to have a mental breakdown. Responsibility for the family fell on the shoulders of 18-year-old Niels Henrik.

In 1821 Abel entered Christiania University (now Oslo), where the teachers, having familiarized themselves with his early work, decided to establish a scholarship from his personal funds, “in order to preserve this rare talent for science”. To make life easier for his mother, Nils Henrik took one of the brothers to him and began to earn money by tutoring.

In 1822 Abel received the degree of "candidate of philosophy".

In the winter of 1822-1823, he presented the university with the first significant scientific work on the integrability of differential equations. The manuscript was not published and was subsequently lost, but for her, Abel was finally assigned a state scholarship.

In 1823 Abel completed a brilliant study of an ancient problem: he proved the impossibility of solving the equation of the 5th degree in general terms (in radicals).

During a trip to Copenhagen, he met Kristina ("Krellie") Kemp and young people began to make plans for living together, for which you need to take a well-paid position. Krellie was poor, like himself, and earned a living by tutoring.

In 1824 the university allowed Abel a paid trip abroad to continue his education.

First, Abel went to Berlin, where he lived from September 1825 to February 1826. There he met Augustus Krell, who arranged for Niels to work for the journal Mathematical Journal for Children and Teenagers. The work of Abel in this period related mainly to the theory of elliptic functions, which he significantly advanced simultaneously with Carl Gustav Jacobi. The competition of these two prominent mathematicians for several years has brought significant benefits to science.

He was interested in the problem of solving algebraic equations. After reading Girolamo Cardano's book “Great Art, or the Rules of Algebra”, Abel came up with the modern formulation of the problem: “The equation of the fifth degree cannot be solved in radicals”. It was brilliant. Now these equations are called Abelian. However, the report of Abel on the theory of functions, sent to the Paris Academy of Sciences, French mathematicians simply "did not notice." This work has long collected dust in the Paris archives and was printed only after the death of the author.

Abel’s next trip abroad covered Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Graz, Trieste, Venice, Padua, Verona, Bautzen, Paris, Brussels, Berlin. It was not tourism in the usual sense, but rather a “foreign scientific mission”. Nils worked a lot, wrote 6 articles. "I discovered so many wonderful theorems that I just can not believe it".


Monument to Abel in Erstad


Abel worked, mined countless mathematical treasures, created theorems, but his manuscripts were lost. No money, a terrible mood, the sick Nils is returning to Christiania. “I am poor as a church rat”, he wrote. Some debts and no clearance. Permanent work, permanent earnings Niels Abel did not receive. The only official recognition of the merits of a scientist is his election as a member of the Royal Scientific Society of Norway.

Autumn 1828 Nils met in bed. He is sick. His health, already weak, has been completely undermined. Constant need and malnutrition, grueling work did their job. Doctors suspect he has tuberculosis. During a trip to Florand in December of the same year (his bride worked there), Niels caught a bad cold. Severe pneumonia superimposed on tuberculosis. He died at the age of only 26 years.

A few days after his death, the long-awaited news came from Berlin - Niels Abel was invited to a highly paid and prestigious job at the University of Berlin.

The great mathematician lived a very short life. His theorems, integrals, formulas and groups are still used today. He never knew that. The cold country was icy to her great son.

“Abel left mathematics so rich a legacy that he will have something to do in the next 500 years” - Charles Hermite is an eminent French mathematician.

Abel erected monuments in Oslo and Erstad. His portrait was placed on a Norwegian banknote 500 CZK (1978). In 2002, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Abel, the Norwegian government established the Abel Prize in Mathematics.

Buried in Frolande at the local cemetery.

The northernmost island in the archipelago of King Charles Land, Spitsbergen. The coordinates are 79°N  30°E.

Mountains on Dixon Land, Svalbard. The coordinates are 78°50'N  16°E.


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