Bernhard Riemann

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Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866) is considered the greatest modern mathematician, and the author of the most famous unsolved problem: the Riemann hypothesis. "It may ... be truly said of Riemann that he touched nothing that he did not in some measure revolutionize" and that he was "[o]ne of the most original mathematicians of modern times."[1] A dozen diverse mathematical issues or structures are named after Riemann. Yet his Christianity was most important to him of all:[2]

During his life, [Riemann] held closely to his Christian faith and considered it to be the most important aspect of his life. At the time of his death, he was reciting the Lord’s Prayer with his wife and passed away before they finished saying the prayer.

Riemann was born into an impoverished family in Germany, a devoutly Christian son of a Lutheran pastor. He was schooled at home by his father, and was sent to attend a prominent school (Johanneum at Luneburg) at the age of 16. Riemann quickly became bored with the math class and asked the director for more advanced material. The director gave him most advanced math books (including Leonhard Euler's works and Adrien Marie Legendre's Theory of Numbers). Riemann mastered them in merely a few days.[3]

Riemann created a new type of geometry that became useful in the next century, and his Riemann hypothesis remains the greatest unsolved problem in mathematics today. It concerns the distribution of prime numbers and was first proposed in Riemann's class paper On the Number of Primes Less Than a Given Magnitude (1859).[4]


  1. E.T. Bell, "Men of Mathematics," 484 (1937).