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Augustin-Louis CAUCHY

French Augustin-Louis CAUCHY

French mathematician

Source :  Brigitte HUA

Born: on August 21, 1789 in Paris, France
Died: on May 23, 1857 in Sceaux, France


Cauchy was the son of Louis François Cauchy (1760-1848) and Marie-Madeleine Desestre. Cauchy had two brothers, Alexandre Laurent Cauchy (1792-1857), who became a president of a division of the court of appeal in 1847, and a judge of the court of cassation in 1849; and Eugene Francois Cauchy (1802-1877), a publicist who also wrote several mathematical works.

Cauchy married Aloise de Bure in 1818. She was a close relative of the publisher who published most of Cauchy's works. By her he had two daughters, Marie Françoise Alicia (1819) and Marie Mathilde (1823).

Cauchy's father (Louis François Cauchy) was a high official in the Parisian Police of the New Régime. He lost his position because of the French Revolution (July 14, 1789) that broke out one month before Augustin-Louis was born. The Cauchy family survived the revolution and the following Reign of Terror (1794) by escaping to Arcueil, where Cauchy received his first education, from his father. After the execution of Robespierre (1794), it was safe for the family to return to Paris. There Louis-François Cauchy found himself a new bureaucratic job, and quickly moved up the ranks. When Napoleon Bonaparte came to power (1799), Louis-François Cauchy was further promoted, and became Secretary-General of the Senate, working directly under Laplace (who is now better known for his work on mathematical physics). The famous mathematician Lagrange was also no stranger in the Cauchy family.

On Lagrange's advice, Augustin-Louis was enrolled in the École Centrale du Panthéon, the best secondary school of Paris at that time, in the fall of 1802. Most of the curriculum consisted of classical languages; the young and ambitious Cauchy, being a brilliant student, won many prizes in Latin and Humanities. In spite of these successes, Augustin-Louis chose an engineering career, and prepared himself for the entrance examination to the École Polytechnique.

In 1805 he placed second out of 293 applicants on this exam, and he was admitted. One of the main purposes of this school was to give future civil and military engineers a high-level scientific and mathematical education. The school functioned under military discipline, which caused the young and pious Cauchy some problems in adapting. Nevertheless, he finished the Polytechnique in 1807, at the age of 18, and went on to the École des Ponts et Chaussées (School for Bridges and Roads). He graduated in civil engineering, with the highest honors.

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See Also :

- Category Mathématician