CHAPTER 1

LEONHARD EULER AND HIS THREE “GREAT” FRIENDS

Read Euler, read Euler, he the master of us all.—Pierre-Simon Laplace1

We have become accustomed to hyperbole. Television commercials, billboards, sportscasters, and popular musicians regularly throw around sensational words such as greatest, best, brightest, fastest, and shiniest. Such words have lost their literal meaning—they are employed in the normal process of selling a product or entertaining a viewer. So, when we say that Leonhard Euler was one of the most influential and prolific mathematicians the world has ever seen, the reader’s eyes may glaze over. We are not overselling the truth. Euler is widely considered, along with Archimedes (287–211 BCE), Isaac Newton (1643–1727), and ...

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