24

I would say that Henry Cavendish (1731–1810) fits this description. A hugely rich man (at the time of his death he was the largest depositor in the Bank of England) he was also a loner in a huge scale. According to Wikipedia, “He could only speak to one person at a time, and only if the person were known to him and male. He conversed little, always ...


18

According to this, it's a modern fabrication: Although Einstein’s initial application for a doctorate at the University of Bern (he had previously been awarded a PhD by the University of Zürich in 1905) was indeed rejected as insufficient in 1907, and it was not until the following year that he completed a new dissertation that resulted in his being ...


18

Yes the stories of Pythagoras that were common a few decades ago have all been been disproved, largely by Walter Burkert in Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism (1972). In short, Pythagoras never thought about any of the mathematics attributed to him. Consequently he gave no mathematical theory of music, never said all is number, and never ...


17

I was originally looking for the first documented reference of another contemporary mathematician calling Gauss the prince to no avail. What we do know is that he was considered, by at least many of his contemporaries (by some accounts all), to be the greatest among them. I do see in The Beginnings and Evolution of Algebra, Volume 19 I. G. Bashmakova, G. S....


12

http://www.uniaktuell.unibe.ch/2016/die_einstein_faelschung/index_eng.html This is the official link from The University of Bern itself which declares it as a fraud.


11

Its far more obvious than all of your assumptions, the supposed author of the letter was dead for more than 25 years by 1907. Case closed


11

The most commonly mentioned name in this context is Nicola Tesla, he is even featured as such in some fiction (e.g. Tomorrowland). He was brilliant, eccentric, kept to himself, and had some wacky ideas, especially later in life, including persistent search for the ether, see Was Nikola Tesla right about his ether theory? Conspiracy theories around his late ...


11

This is almost certainly intended to be an image of Euclid of Alexandria, not of Euclid of Megara. The image was painted by Justus van Gent, who lived in the 15th century. Among his most famous works is a series of pictures of 28 famous people in history, the uomini famosi ("Famous Men") in approximately 1475. As you can guess, this image was among them. ...


11

We have very few information regarding the author of the Elements, called Euclid of Alexandria. See Euclid, The Thirteen Books of the Elements, Vol. 1 : Books 1-2 (ed. T.Heath, Dover reprint), page 1-on : As in the case of the other great mathematicians of Greece, so in Euclid's case, we have on eagre particulars of the life and personality of the man. ...


10

Gauss portrait was printed on German paper money until recently (10 Mark note), before the introduction of the Euro. However my experience shows that the "general public" in many European countries does not recognize the people whose portraits are printed on their money:-) You can still buy some of these notes here http://www.kleinbottle.com/gauss.htm. (I ...


9

Besides the other excellent answers, maybe Georg Cantor could fit your description, with some serious caveats. Although the details of his life have been extremely romanticized (e.g. the widespread story that he was driven crazy "after seeing infinity"), he did suffer from chronic depression in the last years of his life, to the point to which he was ...


9

Our recent edition of Christian Goldbach's correspondence with Leonhard Euler (Leonhardi Euleri Opera Omnia, series IVA, vol.4, Springer: Basel, 2015) has a short biography of Goldbach (Introduction 1.1, p.3-12); thus I had reason to check again whether an authentic portrait might exist. I still haven't found one, but besides the Grassmann photograph - ...


9

If you are interested in descriptions of “everyday life” of human computers, here is an excerpt from Stan Ulam’s autobiography, Adventures of a Mathematician (University of California Press, 1991) concerning the years 1949–1952, when he was a part of the team working in Los Alamos on thermonuclear explosion. The account of the mathematical problems involved ...


8

While this might not be a popular view, I think that Newton would fit this criterion. He was extremely isolated and socially alone. He was surrounded by all sorts of crazy ideas and spent more time on decoding the secret messages from the Bible that he thought could be revealed only to him and on alchemy than he did on actual physics. He did work obsessively,...


8

One can spot a fabricated story by a number of tells: absence of the original citation, shifty dates (in Heisenberg's version, Bohr was telling it in 1927), proliferation of mutually exclusive details (in some versions, the horseshoe was over Bohr's desk). As for the origin, aside from Kenyon's and Droke's popular retellings of 1956, linked in the comments, ...


7

I almost hesitate to offer this answer, because I don't want to suggest in any way that its subject was really a 'mad scientist' at all. But he did show a few of the other characteristics suggested in the question, so his name is arguably not out of place here. For a time in the 1960s something of a loner in his research, even a maverick, he carried out ...


7

I confirm that it is definitely not Bruno Pontecorvo on the first picture (and on the Wikipedia English article at the moment). I knew Bruno Pontecorvo well for a long time beginning in early 60's, I have seen most of his earlier pictures, it is definitely not him. I noticed that earlier with absolute certainty, when I saw this Wikipedia article. Also ...


7

André Bloch is an extreme case: He murdered three of his family members. Being institutionalised for the rest of his life, he wrote influential mathematical papers (on complex analysis). Quote from Wikipedia: On 17 November 1917, while on convalescent leave from service in World War I, Bloch killed his brother Georges, and his aunt and uncle. Several ...


7

Leonard Euler, whom many consider the greatest mathematician of all times, and also the most prolific one, was partially or completely blind during most of his career. His sight began to deteriorate at the age of 31 and he lost his sight completely at 59. He died at 76 and continued to work hard until his death. (At the age of 68 he published a paper every ...


6

I think Paul Dirac would have certain characteristics which fit this category. Often called as "theorist's theorist", Dirac was science's archetypal loners,taciturn and devoid of empathy. He has an unhappy childhood, but doesn't mention it for 50 years; learns to speak French, German and Russian, but becomes famous for his long silences; embarks on the wrong ...


5

Kari Mullis, inventor/discoverer of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for fast analysis of DNA samples, was into wild LSD rides and espoused near-Scientology-level beliefs in supernatural goings-on. I might suggest Linus Pauling, but all evidence suggests his nuttiness came well after all his discoveries, so he was "of sound mind" while doing the work ...


5

The standard book about Newton's life is Never at Rest by Richard Westfall. On my opinion it is a very good book, it covers his life in great detail, and gives a general overview of his activities (not only in physics) but in astronomy, history, theology, alchemy, and as the Mint administrator. On physics, the latest English translation of Principia by Cohen ...


5

Kurt Gödel achieved some of the most important breakthroughs in logic in the 20th century. As far as mental instability is concerned, quote from Wikipedia: Later in his life, Gödel suffered periods of mental instability and illness. He had an obsessive fear of being poisoned; he would eat only food that his wife, Adele, prepared for him. Late in 1977, ...


4

This image is certainly not of Christian Goldbach. It is attributed to Hermann Grassmann in all reliable sources I am aware of, and I see no reason to doubt that Grassmann is indeed the one pictured. The text From Past to Future: Graßmann's Work in Context uses it as a cover photo, as do many other texts on Grassmann. It seems to be taken from an 1874 ...


4

interesting question for historians, a bit like "why did Rome fall?" my guess: public money. for many years the us govt has funded scientific research to the tune of many billions of dollars per year. that's very attractive to scientists. politics. if you submit a crazy or only subversive proposal in the us the worst that can happen is you end up ...


4

Sophus Lie probably qualifies, being both a great mathematician and a patient of mental institutions. According his Wiki, he largely created the theory of continuous symmetry and applied it to the study of geometry and differential equations.


3

I agree with the citation of Westfall's biography of Newton, the 'Cambridge Companion' and the 1999 translation and introduction of the 'Principia'. In addition, for the calculus and an account of the dispute about it I would suggest A R Hall's 'Philosophers at War'. I would also cite excellent books and papers by: Niccolo Guicciardini (esp. books ...


3

Georg Cantor is well known as someone who was admitted to a mental asylum several times in his lifetime, mainly it seems because of the opposition to his ideas on the characterising mathematical infinities; a theory, that today passes without much comment. In fact, Kronecker perceived him as a "corrupter of youth" for teaching his ideas to a younger ...


3

F. D. C. Willard co-authored a paper with Jack Hetherington. Willard was his cat. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.D.C._Willard


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