Paging Mr. Affleck and Mr. Damon

Évariste Galois

The untutored thug mathematician in the movie Good Will Hunting was supposedly based on the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who did his first work as a self-taught unknown in faraway Tamil Nadu, but for the thug part Évariste Galois would have been a far better choice:

On the following Bastille Day, Galois was at the head of a protest, wearing the uniform of the disbanded artillery, and came heavily armed with several pistols, a rifle, and a dagger. For this, he was again arrested, this time sentenced to six months in prison for illegally wearing a uniform. He was released on April 29, 1832. During his imprisonment, he continued developing his mathematical ideas.

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Published in: on February 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. At an academic party, I recounted the story that Galois, when challenged to a duel, stayed up all night trying to write up his results in what is now called Galois theory. Sadly, he didn’t finish and he died in the duel.

    A physicist friend of mine responded:

    “Ha! Typical mathematician. If he’d of stayed up all night practicing with his pistol, he could have written up his results at his leisure.”


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