Elementary my dear mathematician

Apr 2015
To continue our celebration of Mathematics Awareness Month, we thought we'd bring you some information about important mathematicians born in April.

The infamous adversary of Sherlock Holmes, James Moriarty, was born on 1 April 1835. A great influencer on Victorian society, his biographical details are somewhat sketchy, however, at the age of 21 he wrote a treatise on the binomial theorem, winning a mathematical chair in one of the London Universities as a result of it.

However, maths wasn't his only fascination, as A C Doyle stated in his short story, The Final Problem in Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (London): "But the man had hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers.

Dark rumours gathered round him in the university town, and eventually he was compelled to resign his chair and to come down to London, where he set up as an army coach."

Leonardo Da Vinci was born on 15 April 1452 in the Tuscan town of Vinci. He was hugely influential as an artist, sculptor, engineer, scientist and inventor. Da Vinci is often thought of as an artist because of the fame of his surviving paintings, but his notebooks show that he wrote and drew on the subjects of geology, anatomy, flight, gravity, and optics. He conceived of a number of 'inventions', 500 years before they were actually invented, such as the bicycle, helicopter and airplane.

Of his artwork, the most well-known is probably the Mona Lisa. This was one of his favourite paintings which didn't leave his side until his death. It was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 by a former employee who believed it belonged in Italy. It took two years for the thief to be apprehended and the painting to be returned.

Christiaan Huygens was born on 14 April 1629. He was a Dutch mathematician and scientist who focussed on work in the fields of astronomy, physics, probability and horology. His work included telescopic studies of the rings of Saturn, and he discovered its moon, Titan. He also invented the pendulum clock in 1656, which from its invention until the 1930s was the world's most precise timekeeper.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries pendulum clocks in homes, factories, offices and railway stations served as the primary way of scheduling daily life, work shifts, and public transport, and their accuracy allowed the faster pace of life which was necessary for the Industrial Revolution.