Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pipe lore: Leonhard Euler's last words

Leonhard Euler was a Swiss mathematician who lived from 1707-83.
After having amused himself one afternoon calculating the laws of ascent of balloons--on his slate, as usual--Euler dined with Lexell (a mathematical colleague) and his family. "Herschel's Planet" (Uranus) was a recent discovery. Euler outlined the calculation of its orbit. A little later he asked that his grandson be brought in. While playing with the child and drinking tea he suffered a stroke. The pipe dropped from his hand, and with the words, "I die," Euler ceased to live and calculate.

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