Charles Hermite was one of the most famous French mathematicians of the nineteenth century, who researched on orthogonal polynomials, algebra, elliptic functions and many other topics. Hermite’s works in mathematics remain unmatched even today. He was a man who fought for his rights despite his disability and has proven to be an inspiration to so many young and upcoming mathematicians. Hermite has also proven that genuine interests in a particular subject and skills matter rather than formal education. He devised interpolation procedure, which is popularly known as Hermite Interpolation, after him. He is also quite popular for his theory of algebraic forms, the arithmetic theory of quadratic forms and theories on elliptic and Abelian functions. Although Hermite was more into algebra than arithmetic, his profound work in arithmetic was continued by Hermann Minkowski later in the twentieth century. Read through the following section of this biography and learn more about this genius.
Initially Hermite studied at College de Nancy and later, went on to study in College Henry IV and Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Hermite’s dream was to study at Ecole Polytechnique for which he prepared all year long. He was trained by Catalan for his exams with Ecole Polytechnique. After a yearlong hard work, Hermite gained entry to Ecole Polytechnique where he was a student for a very short period of time. He was forced to leave the college because of his disability. However, he fought back and won his place at Ecole Polytechnique but with rigid conditions. Such strict conditions angered Hermite and he left the college even without graduating.
Although Hermite lost interest in studies, he never forgot to pay attention to the research work of Lagrange and Gauss, which helped him publish his two papers while at Louis le Grand. In fact, he described in one of the papers that the quintic theory cannot be solved by radicals. He did his graduation privately in a span of five years during which he befriended famous mathematicians like Joseph Bertrand and Carl Jacobi. He had come up with general solutions to the differential equations in terms of theta function. In 1847, he was awarded the certificate after having cleared baccalaureat examination, which most French students take up immediately after secondary education. He was also appointed by Ecole Polytechnique, the same institute that banned him from continuing education, as an admissions examiner and repetiteur.
Hermite’s friendship with Joseph Bertrand turned out to be quite beneficial with respect to his personal life as he ended up marrying Bertrand’s sister Louise Bertrand. They had two daughters. One among them got married to Emile Picard; another daughter got married to G. Forestier. It is said that Picard later edited Hermite’s work. However, it is said that Hermite gained interest in Sanskrit and ancient Persian as he came under the influence of the famous philologist E. Boumoff.
Though Hermite was elected to the Academie des Sciences, he contracted small pox during the latter part of 1856, which deteriorated his health. It is believed that Hermite suffered from asthma attacks during his last days. However, the actual cause of his death is not known. Hermite passed away at the age of 78 on 14January 1901 in Paris.
CHARLES HERMITE TIMELINE
Hermite was born on 24 December in Dieuze, Moselle, North East France
He gained entry tothe Ecole Polytechnique where he remained as a student only for one year
He began his correspondence with Jacobi regarding the elliptical functions.
He awarded license for clearing the baccalaureat examinations.
He was elected to the Académie des Sciences on 14 July 1856. In the same year he also contracted smallpox.
He showed in 1858 that an algebraic equation of the fifth degree could be solved using elliptic functions.
He was appointed maître de conférence at the École Polytechnique, a position which had been specially created for him.
He became a professor of analysis at Ecole Polytechnique and Sorbonne.
He proved the transcendence of Euler’s constant, ‘e’.
He resigned as chair from Ecole Polytechnique but, retained his position at Sorbonne.
He retired from Sorbonne.
He died On 14 January in Paris.
Pictures of Charles Hermite