April is the month in which the mathematician Sophie Germain was born (April 1, 1776). She was born in Paris and taught herself math as a teenager during the French Revolution using books from her father's library. Her parents discouraged her from studying but she would sneak down to the library at night. When she got caught, they took away her pajamas, the heat and the light to try to force her to stay in bed, but even that couldn't stop her. As a woman, she was not allowed to enroll in college, so she wrote papers to professors using the pseudonym Mr. Le Blanc. She used this pseudonym to write to Joseph-Louis Lagrange and Carl Gauss who were thrilled when they later learned that Mr. Le Blanc was a woman. There is now a street in Paris named in her honor.
April is also the month in which the mathematician Carl Gauss was born (April 30, 1777). In school, when his teacher gave the class the problem of summing the integers from 1 to 100 to keep them busy, Gauss immediately wrote down the correct answer of 5050. Although some doubt this story, there is no doubt that Gauss is one of the greatest mathematician ever. There is a joke among mathematicians that if anyone thinks they have made a new discovery in math, they would be wise to go through Gauss' unpublished work to make sure he didn't make the same discovery centuries ago. Two of Gauss' sons emigrated to the United States; so it is quite likely his direct descendants are living in America today.
Someone wanted to be a math teacher, but history intervened... "It was never my intention to remain in the army long, but to prepare myself for a professorship in some college. Accordingly, soon after I was settled at Jefferson Barracks [near St. Louis], I wrote a letter to Professor Albert Church-- Professor of Mathematics at West Point-- requesting him to ask my designation as his assistant."
-Ulysses S. Grant (Born April 27, 1822)
"When I was young, mathematics was the passion of my life."
-Thomas Jefferson (Born April 13, 1743)
Click here for more about Jefferson and math.
"Baseball is ninety percent mental, the other half is physical."
-Yogi Berra

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