Niels Henrik Abel was a Norwegian mathematician, recognized only after his death as a pioneer in the development of modern mathematics.
Abel was born on August 5, 1802, on the island of Finnǿy, near Stavanger, Norway, where his father was a poor Protestant minister. The family soon moved to the parish of Gjerstad, near the town of Risǿr (southeast Norway), where the boy grew up. In 1815, when he entered the cathedral school in Oslo, his mathematical talent was recognized by a teacher who introduced him to the classics in mathematical literature and proposed original problems for solution. Thoroughly challenged, Abel studied the works of the 17th-century English mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton and the contemporary mathematicians Leonhard Euler (German), Joseph-Louis Lagrange (French), and Carl Friedrich Gauss (German) and learned to detect gaps in their mathematical reasoning.
Although when Abel’s father died in 1820 the family was left in straightened circumstances, the boy was able to enter the University of Christiania (Oslo) in 1821 because his teacher contributed and raised funds.
On graduation from the University in 1822, Abel continued his studies with further subsidies obtained by his teacher. His first papers, published in 1823 in the new periodical Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne, were on functional equations and integrals, his solution of an integral equation being the first. Abel’s friends urged the Norwegian government to grant him a fellowship for study in Germany and France.
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