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Comparing the legacies of Gauss, Pasteur and Darwin


Kevin Padian's enthusiastic Essay on Charles Darwin ('Darwin's enduring legacy' Nature 451, 632–634; 2008) asks whether any single individual made so many lasting contributions to a broad area of science as Darwin did to biology. Let us remember that the nineteenth century also included Carl Friedrich Gauss, often called the greatest mathematician since antiquity, and Louis Pasteur, sometimes considered humanity's greatest benefactor because of his (and Robert Koch's) germ theory of disease.

It is a straightforward exercise to counter Padian's top ten darwinian topics (all of them evolution-oriented) with a much broader list for Gauss. He profoundly influenced modern life with his fundamental breakthroughs in statistics, algebra, analysis and other fields of mathematics — the 'queen of sciences'. His insights permeate all areas of science and engineering, including the theory of evolution.

Without Pasteur's revolution in medicine, many beacons of social and intellectual life would not have survived to formulate their thoughts. So, although Darwin was certainly one of the greatest, he had some even more influential contemporaries.

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Schmidhuber, J. Comparing the legacies of Gauss, Pasteur and Darwin. Nature 452, 530 (2008).

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Further reading

  • Recent Publications

    BSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics (2009)


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