Bólyai, János (1802–1860)
János Bólyai was a Hungarian mathematician who was one of the founders of nonEuclidean
geometry, independently coming to almost the same conclusions as Nikolai Lobachevsky. He was initially taught
by his father, Farkas, also a mathematician, then studied at the Royal Engineering
College in Vienna from 1818 to 1822. Between 1820 and 1823 he prepared his
treatise on a complete system of nonEuclidean geometry, commenting "Out
of nothing I have created a strange new universe." It was published in 1832
as an Appendix to an essay by his father. Carl Gauss,
on reading the Appendix, wrote to a friend saying "I regard this young geometer
Bólyai as a genius of the first order." It was not until 1848 that Bólyai
learned that Lobachevsky had produced a similar piece of work in 1829. Although
he never published more than the 24 pages of the Appendix, Bólyai left more
than 20,000 pages of manuscript of mathematical work when he died. He was
an accomplished linguist, speaking nine foreign languages including Chinese
and Tibetan.
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