János Bolyai


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Born in 1802 in Kolozsvár, Hungary (now Cluj, Romania),
died 1860 in Marosvásárhely, Hungary (now Tirgu-Mures, Romania)

János' father was a mathematician and a friend of Gauss, and wanted his son to become mathematician too. He was a bright boy by all accounts, and was interested in mathematics and astronomy from an early age. He completed the Royal Engineering College course in Vienna and entered the army to work on fortifications at Temesvár. János aparently was very good at languages too, and on his entry to the army was noted to speak nine languages, including Chinese and Tibetan.

János had a relatively unhappy life: he only ever published the most important work in geometry that was probably published in the whole 19th century as an appendix to his father's work, and never got a position that was worthy of his abilities.

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When he died, he left about 20 000 pages of manuscripts on mathematics, the nature of knowledge, on linguistics and even sociology. These are now deposited in the Bolyai-Teleki library in Tirgu-Mures.

Bolyai is famous for his invention of non-Euclidean geometry.



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