Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann (German: [ˈɡeːɔʁk ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈbɛʁnhaʁt ˈʁiːman] (); 17 September 1826 – 20 July 1866) was a German mathematician who made contributions to analysis, number theory, and differential geometry. In the field of real analysis, he is mostly known for the first rigorous formulation of the integral, the Riemann integral, and his work on Fourier series. His contributions to complex analysis include most notably the introduction of Riemann surfaces, breaking new ground in a natural, geometric treatment of complex analysis. His 1859 paper on the prime-counting function, containing the original statement of the Riemann hypothesis, is regarded as one of the most influential papers in analytic number theory. Through his pioneering contributions to differential geometry, Riemann laid the foundations of the mathematics of general relativity. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.
Riemann was born on 17 September 1826 in Breselenz, a village near Dannenberg in the Kingdom of Hanover. His father, Friedrich Bernhard Riemann, was a poor Lutheran pastor in Breselenz who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. His mother, Charlotte Ebell, died before her children had reached adulthood. Riemann was the second of six children, shy and suffering from numerous nervous breakdowns. Riemann exhibited exceptional mathematical skills, such as calculation abilities, from an early age but suffered from timidity and a fear of speaking in public.
During 1840, Riemann went to Hanover to live with his grandmother and attend lyceum (middle school years). After the death of his grandmother in 1842, he attended high school at the Johanneum Lüneburg. In high school, Riemann studied the Bible intensively, but he was often distracted by mathematics. His teachers were amazed by his ability to perform complicated mathematical operations, in which he often outstripped his instructor's knowledge. In 1846, at the age of 19, he started studying philology and Christian theology in order to become a pastor and help with his family's finances.
During the spring of 1846, his father, after gathering enough money, sent Riemann to the University of Göttingen, where he planned to study towards a degree in theology. However, once there, he began studying mathematics under Carl Friedrich Gauss (specifically his lectures on the method of least squares). Gauss recommended that Riemann give up his theological work and enter the mathematical field; after getting his father's approval, Riemann transferred to the University of Berlin in 1847. During his time of study, Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet, Jakob Steiner, and Gotthold Eisenstein were teaching. He stayed in Berlin for two years and returned to Göttingen in 1849.
Riemann held his first lectures in 1854, which founded the field of Riemannian geometry and thereby set the stage for Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. In 1857, there was an attempt to promote Riemann to extraordinary professor status at the University of Göttingen. Although this attempt failed, it did result in Riemann finally being granted a regular salary. In 1859, following the death of Dirichlet (who held Gauss's chair at the University of Göttingen), he was promoted to head the mathematics department at the University of Göttingen. He was also the first to suggest using dimensions higher than merely three or four in order to describe physical reality.
In 1862 he married Elise Koch and they had a daughter Ida Schilling who was born on 22 December 1862.
Riemann fled Göttingen when the armies of Hanover and Prussia clashed there in 1866. He died of tuberculosis during his third journey to Italy in Selasca (now a hamlet of Verbania on Lake Maggiore) where he was buried in the cemetery in Biganzolo (Verbania).
Riemann was a dedicated Christian, the son of a Protestant minister, and saw his life as a mathematician as another way to serve God. During his life, he 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 died before they finished saying the prayer. Meanwhile, in Göttingen his housekeeper discarded some of the papers in his office, including much unpublished work. Riemann refused to publish incomplete work, and some deep insights may have been lost forever.
Here rests in God
Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann
Professor in Göttingen
born in Breselenz, 17 September 1826
died in Selasca, 20 July 1866
Riemann's published works opened up research areas combining analysis with geometry. These would subsequently become major parts of the theories of Riemannian geometry, algebraic geometry, and complex manifold theory. The theory of Riemann surfaces was elaborated by Felix Klein and particularly Adolf Hurwitz. This area of mathematics is part of the foundation of topology and is still being applied in novel ways to mathematical physics.
In 1853, Gauss asked Riemann, his student, to prepare a Habilitationsschrift on the foundations of geometry. Over many months, Riemann developed his theory of higher dimensions and delivered his lecture at Göttingen in 1854 entitled "" (""). It was not published until twelve years later in 1868 by Dedekind, two years after his death. Its early reception appears to have been slow, but it is now recognized as one of the most important works in geometry.
The subject founded by this work is Riemannian geometry. Riemann found the correct way to extend into n dimensions the differential geometry of surfaces, which Gauss himself proved in his theorema egregium. The fundamental object is called the Riemann curvature tensor. For the surface case, this can be reduced to a number (scalar), positive, negative, or zero; the non-zero and constant cases being models of the known non-Euclidean geometries.
Riemann's idea was to introduce a collection of numbers at every point in space (i.e., a tensor) which would describe how much it was bent or curved. Riemann found that in four spatial dimensions, one needs a collection of ten numbers at each point to describe the properties of a manifold, no matter how distorted it is. This is the famous construction central to his geometry, known now as a Riemannian metric.
Many mathematicians such as Alfred Clebsch furthered Riemann's work on algebraic curves. These theories depended on the properties of a function defined on Riemann surfaces. For example, the Riemann–Roch theorem (Roch was a student of Riemann) says something about the number of linearly independent differentials (with known conditions on the zeros and poles) of a Riemann surface.
According to Detlef Laugwitz, automorphic functions appeared for the first time in an essay about the Laplace equation on electrically charged cylinders. Riemann however used such functions for conformal maps (such as mapping topological triangles to the circle) in his 1859 lecture on hypergeometric functions or in his treatise on minimal surfaces.
In the field of real analysis, he discovered the Riemann integral in his habilitation. Among other things, he showed that every piecewise continuous function is integrable. Similarly, the Stieltjes integral goes back to the Göttinger mathematician, and so they are named together the Riemann–Stieltjes integral.
In his habilitation work on Fourier series, where he followed the work of his teacher Dirichlet, he showed that Riemann-integrable functions are "representable" by Fourier series. Dirichlet has shown this for continuous, piecewise-differentiable functions (thus with countably many non-differentiable points). Riemann gave an example of a Fourier series representing a continuous, almost nowhere-differentiable function, a case not covered by Dirichlet. He also proved the Riemann–Lebesgue lemma: if a function is representable by a Fourier series, then the Fourier coefficients go to zero for large n.
He also worked with hypergeometric differential equations in 1857 using complex analytical methods and presented the solutions through the behavior of closed paths about singularities (described by the monodromy matrix). The proof of the existence of such differential equations by previously known monodromy matrices is one of the Hilbert problems.
He made some famous contributions to modern analytic number theory. In a single short paper, the only one he published on the subject of number theory, he investigated the zeta function that now bears his name, establishing its importance for understanding the distribution of prime numbers. The Riemann hypothesis was one of a series of conjectures he made about the function's properties.