Euler's Disciples (Students)

In the Eulogy of Euler, N. Fuss writes:

"The Academy has eight mathematicians who have enjoyed the instructions of Mr. Euler ... J. A. [Johann Albrecht] Euler, Kotelnikov, Rumovsky, Krafft, Lexell, Inokhodtsov, Golovine and I...".

These individuals are often referred to as Euler's disciples, students, or assistants. In addition to being scholars themselves, they helped to carry on Euler's great legacy in many ways.

Many of the disciples helped to prepare or translate Euler's (and others') works. For example:

Vucinich writes:

"...most of them distinguished themselves as teachers in various schools. Golovin brought high standards in the teaching of mathematics to the newly founded St. Petersburg Pedagogical Seminarium, Inokhodtsev and Rumovskii to the academic gymnasium, Kotelnikov to the naval school, and Fuss to the infantry school."

Additional information about each of Euler's disciples is provided below.

Georg Wolfgang Krafft (1701 - 1754) was a mathematician and physicist. He was the second most active collaborator (after Euler) in the mathematics and physics sections of the Commentarii. When Euler became the professor of mathematics in St. Petersburg in 1733, Krafft took over Euler's previous position, that of professor of physics.

Johann Albrecht Euler (1734 - 1800) was a mathematician and the first child of Leonhard Euler himself. In 1754 he became a member of the Berlin Academy. On Euler's return to St. Petersburg in 1765, he was appointed as the chair of physics at the St. Petersburg Academy. In St. Petersburg, he lived in his father's house; Johann Albrecht's family occupied the ground floor. He won a total of 7 international academy prizes.

Anders Johann Lexell (1740 - 1784) was an astronomer and mathematician. He arrived at St. Petersburg in 1769 and was appointed professor of Astronomy at the academy of sciences in 1771. He is known for his study of the motion of comets. One particular comet that has been named after Lexell is famous for having made the closest known approach to Earth in (recorded) history. Lexell was present on the day of Euler's death; he had been discussing with Euler and Fuss the orbit of Uranus. Later, Lexell became the first to compute Uranus' orbit; his calculations showed that (1) from its orbit, it was a planet rather than a comet, and (2) from perturbations in its orbit, another planet must have existed (the subsequently discovered Neptune). Lexell was appointed Professor of Mathematics at the St. Petersburg academy after Euler's death; however, Lexell himself died the following year.

Nicolaus Fuss (1755 - 1826) was born and educated in Basel, Switzerland. Due in part to his mathematical training, he was recommended by Daniel Bernoulli as a assistant/secretary for the nearly-blind Euler. Fuss arrived in St. Petersburg in 1773 and helped Euler to prepare over 250 papers. In 1776 Fuss became an assistant at the St. Petersburg academy. He became Euler's grandson-in-law in 1784 when he married the first-born daughter of Euler's son Johann Albrecht. Fuss was also present on the day of Euler's death and subsequently he wrote an Eulogy to Euler. In 1790, Fuss became a professor of mathematics at the infantry school in Petersburg; from 1800 to 1826, permanent secretary to the Academy of Sciences in Petersburg. Most of Fuss's published papers are solutions to problems posed by Euler on spherical geometry, trigonometry, series, differential geometry and differential equations.

Mikhail Evseyevich Golovin, mathematician. In 1789, he published "Plane and Spheric Trigonometry with Algebraic Proofs", based on Euler's ideas, which was designed to serve as a textbook.

S.K. Kotelnikov (also spelled "Kotelnikoff") According to a letter from Euler to Razumovsky on January 27 / February 7, 1756, Razumovsky sent Kotelnikov and Rumovsky, students from the St. Petersburg academy, to Berlin for mathematical instruction from Euler. Euler remarked that as students, they made "excellent progress". During 1752-1756, Euler provided quarters in his Berlin residence for these two students. In the translation of Wolff's book, described above, Kotelnikov added an original survey of the principles of the differential and integral calculus -- the first study in Russian on mathematical analysis.

Stepan Rumovsky (also spelled "Rumovskii") (1734 - 1812) was an astronomer and mathematician. Vucinich refers to him as "Euler's most productive and versatile Russian disciple". As described above, he lodged with Euler in Berlin for a while. Rumovsky headed the St. Petersburg Geography department and astronomical observatory, published several papers on integration and differential equations, translated Fuss's Eulogy into Russian, and was elected to the Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1761, Rumovsky headed the academy team sent to Siberia to observe the passage of Venus over the Sun's disk. In the 1800s, he helped lead efforts for the establishment of new schools of higher education.

Petr Inokhodtsev, Russian astronomer.
[Details of his life and accomplishments are unknown to the archive at this time; any information that readers submit would be appreciated.]

The main references for this section are:

Fellmann, Emil A. "Leonhard Euler", Birkhäuser, 2007.

Vucinich, Alexander, "Mathematics in Russian Culture", Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 21, No. 2. (Apr. - Jun., 1960), pp. 161-179.