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Versions of the Gauss Schoolroom Anecdote Collected by Brian Hayes with a lot of help from my friends Transcribed below are tellings of the story about Carl Friedrich Gauss's boyhood discovery of the "trick" for summing an arithmetic progression.
A word about how I collected these accounts: Many were found through conventional methods of library research. I began with biographies of Gauss, then followed references mentioned by the biographers, and I was also guided by the major Gauss bibliography assembled by Uta C.
Merzbach Merzbach, Uta C. To broaden the search I thumbed through various well-known works on the history of mathematics and collections of mathematical anecdotes, and I browsed in literature on the teaching of mathematics.
On the World Wide Web, search engines offered a very efficient means of locating versions of the story. Another invaluable resource was the Google Book Search.
This service has been controversial because some authors and publishers maintain it infringes their copyrights.
Whatever the outcome of that dispute, I can report that Google Book Search led me to many works I would never have found by any other means. Advanced Web Programming or in a book titled Puzzles of Finance: Six Practical Problems and their Remarkable Solutions.
My thanks to the librarians of the following institutions: Johannes Berg of the University of Cologne and Stephan Mertens of the University of Magdeburg helped me in this curious pursuit by supplying documents I could not obtain in the U.
Carl Friedrich Gauss in advance of publication. Ivo Schneider of the Bundeswehr University, Munich, offered advice on interpreting the documentary record of Gauss's early life but obviously he is not to be held responsible for my interpretations.
The versions of the tale presented here are only a sample of those in the worldwide literature. I would be happy to receive other tellings of the story, in any language, and will attempt to include them in this archive.
Of particular interest are any versions that predate those of Eric Temple Bell and Ludwig Bieberbach in and Please send all such materials, and any corrections of the transcriptions found here, to brian bit-player.
I have added to the collection three more tellings of the tale bringing the total to One comes from a new book by Ian Stewart, another from an biographical sketch by F.
This last item is particularly notable because it includes the 1-to example. It is the earliest such instance I have found, more than 30 years ahead of Ludwig Beiberbach's account. Barry Cipra has added three more sources the total is now They are a essay by G. Waldo Dunnington who also published a book-length biography of Gauss ina book by J.
Munro titled Heroes of the Telegraph, and Stephen W. Hawking's book God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs that Changed History.
Thanks to the further diligent sleuthing of Barry Cipra and others, the collection now has another 20 entries, for a total of The additions include three literary genres that had not yet been represented: Added one more recent item.
The count stands at items. Full text available on Google Books. Google Books copy is second edition, datedbut first edition was published in Berechnungder Summe aller Zahlen von 1 bis Die Karbatsche wird dich in Zukunft vor sol chem Vorwitz bewahren", denkt er dabei.
Als Resultat hatte der Knabe daher auf der Stelle gehabt: Gauss y la campana. Weblog posting in Historias de la Ciencia, 22 December The Duke's In Bed, The Ellingtonians, as encountered by Steve Voce I have long admired the insightful and comprehensive obituaries Steve Voce writes for The .
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