As far as I know, Gauss's nickname comes from the phrase GEORGIVS V REX HANNOVERAE MATHEMATICORVM PRINCIPI, which was the phrase on the medal the King of Hanover awarded Gauss after his death.

I wonder why PRINCIPI is translated as 'prince' here. PRINCIPI is a conjugation of princeps, and the origin of PRINCIPI, princeps means 'first, monarch, ruler...'

This is the meaning of Augustus, the emperor of the Imperium Romanum, when he called himself princeps civitatis (first citizen), and in the great Sir Newton's famous book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, princeps is called Principia, meaning 'first fundamental principle'. It was also transformed, right?

That's why MATHEMATICORVM PRINCIPI is thought to mean 'King of Mathematics', but I wonder why it is widely known as the 'Prince of Mathematics'.

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    $\begingroup$ This question is about Latin, not History. $\endgroup$ Commented May 19 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ It is also often 'translated' as "the Prince of Mathematicians", although princeps was used for Roman emperors since Augustus. Some 19th century authors called Newton or Euler "the Prince of Mathematicians", so maybe that honorific sounded more familiar to British ears. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented May 19 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ Btw, Machiavelli's Il Principe (1532) was also translated as The Prince, so it has a venerable history. And, as we read in Goulding's Defending Hypatia, p.44:"Plato was held in such high regard in his own day, Ramus said, that the Delians turned to him tanquam mathematicorum principem, “as prince of mathematicians” to solve their problem." Ramus wrote in 1569, so mathematicorum principem has a venerable history too. Renaissance authors also applied it to Archimedes and others. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented May 19 at 13:17


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