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Augustin-Louis Cauchy - Cauchy's Life
Somsack Chaitesipaseut

Augustin-Louis Cauchy was one of the greatest mathematicians during the nineteenth century. In fact, there are sixteen concepts and theorems named after him, more than any other mathematician. His life began in Paris, France on August 21, 1789, and ended at Sceaux, France on May 22, 1857. His father, Luois-Francois, and his mother, Marie-Madeleine Desestre, provided him and his siblings a comfortable life [Freudenthal, p. 131].

Cauchy was exposed to famous scientists as a child. The Cauchy family once had Laplace and Berthollet as neighbors, and his father even knew Lagrange. In fact, Lagrange had foreseen Augustin's scientific greatness when he was a child by warning his father to not show him any mathematical text before he was seventeen years old [Freudenthal, p. 131].

After home schooling, Cauchy entered the École Centrale du Panthéon where he finished his classical studies with distinction. At the age of sixteen, he was admitted to the École Polytechnique in 1805, and two years later, had entered the École des Ponts et Chaussées. Cauchy then left this institute to become an engineer where he worked outside of Paris [Freudenthal, p. 131].

It was not until 1811 when Lagrange had given Cauchy a problem that he began his mathematical career. Cauchy was to figure out whether the angles of a convex polyhedron are determined by its faces. And according to some, his solution is considered to be a ``classic and beautiful piece of work and a classic of mathematics''[Freudenthal, p. 131]. Over a period of fifteen years, 1815-1830, Cauchy's name grew with distinction as he was appointed adjoint professor and full professor at École Polytechnique, and chairs at the Faculté des Sciences and the Collège de France [Freudenthal, p. 131-].

Cauchy married Aloïse de Bure in 1818, and she was a close relative of a publisher who was to publish most of Cauchy's work [Freudenthal, p. 131].

After the July Revolution of 1830, Cauchy lost most of his positions at the instistutes because he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new king, Louis-Philippe, and decided to leave France. It was in 1833 that the ousted king of France, Charles X, called Cauchy to Prague to educate his son, who would later be the Duke of Chambord. It was not explained why, but Cauchy's wife joined him in Prague one year later [Freudenthal, p. 132].

Cauchy went back to Paris in 1838 when he finished his work with Charles X in Prague, and resumed his involvement with the Academy. At the time, because Cauchy was a mathematician, he was exempted from the oath of allegiance. After the establishment of the Second Republique in 1848, Cauchy resumed his position at the Sorbonne. Cauchy continued with his writings and publications through the remainder of his life [Freudenthal, p. 132].

Cauchy's last words to the Academy were, ``C'est ce que j'expliquerai plus au long dans un prochain memoire.'' Roughly translated, Cauchy said, ``I will explain it in greater detail in my next memoire'' [Freudenthal, p.132]. I can only assume that he was referring to a new proof or idea that was not yet thoroughly thought out. Cauchy died eighteen days later at the age of 68. Who knows what mathematical discovery Cauchy took to his grave.

| Cauchy's Life | Cauchy's Mathematical Accomplishments | Cauchy's Criterion for Convergence | Bibliography | Back to the front page