[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] Dartmouth Students Build Online Archive of Historic Mathematician [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Three hundred years ago, a prolific and influential mathematician named Leonhard Euler was born in Switzerland. During his 76-year lifetime, he wrote more than 850 papers covering various topics such as fluid mechanics, naval science, calculus, cartography, acoustics, optics, and solar, lunar, and stellar motion. Despite this vast body of work, which some historians say constitutes 25 percent of all scientific work published in the 18th century, Euler is not a household name.

Leonhard Euler
The Euler Archive is an online trove of maerial related to 18th-century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, depicted here in a painting by Emanuel Handmann.

Dartmouth students set out to help raise awareness of Euler and to make his work more accessible. Graduate students Dominic Klyve and Lee Stemkoski, with help from other graduate and undergraduate students, began about four years ago to copy, scan, and post the original works of Euler online.

Their effort, called the Euler Archive, is getting recognition from the Mathematical Association of America, which is celebrating 2007 as the Year of Euler in honor of the 300th anniversary of his birth. In addition to Euler books, lectures, study tours, and other activities, a poster was produced that promotes Dartmouth's Euler Archive as a place to consult for further study.

"Perhaps the most striking thing about the Euler Archive, in my mind," says Professor of Mathematics Carl Pomerance, "is that this was a student project all the way, from the first germ of an idea through its continuing execution."

"I think there are two basic reasons Euler is not more widely known," says Klyve. "First, he wrote so much that it's frankly difficult to comprehend it all. Second, his original writings are difficult to find, and they haven't all been translated into English. Publication of his complete works began in 1907, and it's still not complete."

Both Klyve and Pomerance acknowledge the initial support of the Dartmouth Library, which owns a copy of the Opera Omnia, the encyclopedia-in-progress of Euler's works. With the Library's blessing, the first papers were scanned and posted, and that provided the incentive to get other academics and other libraries involved. With financial support from Presence Switzerland, The Swiss House for Advanced Research and Education, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research, and Dartmouth's Department of Mathematics, the online archive now boasts 834 of Euler's papers and books, all available for free download.

"Since its inception, the Euler Archive has expanded to include not just original works, but also secondary sources and translations," says Klyve. "In the past three years, we have more than doubled the number of Euler's works that have been translated into English, and we now have 74 translations available, more than half of which were published first on the Euler Archive."

Klyve reports that the Euler Archive gets about 20,000 unique visits per month from scholars, students, and others all over the world.

"I think that because of the archive, there's been a rapid increase of scholarly work on Euler in recent years," he says. "We have been very gratified by the comments we've received from the people who have used our work in their own."

Pomerance adds, "The Euler Archive has turned out to be extraordinarily useful to mathematical historians. Having centuries-old work readily available on your laptop certainly beats long waits for documents retrieved through interlibrary loan or your library's repository."

Visit the Euler Archive.

By SUSAN KNAPP

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Last Updated: 12/17/08