Ludwig Schläfli

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Ludwig Schläfli (15 January 1814 – 20 March 1895) was a Swiss geometer and complex analyst (at the time called function theory) who was one of the key figures in developing the notion of higher dimensional spaces. The concept of multidimensionality has since come to play a pivotal role in physics, and is a common element in science fiction. Although his ideas have become so widely accepted, he is poorly remembered, even among mathematicians.

Life and career

Youth and education

Ludwig Schläfli spent most of his life in Switzerland. He was born in Graßwil, his mother's hometown. The family then moved to the nearby Burgdorf, where his father worked as a tradesman. His father wanted Ludwig to follow in his footsteps, but Ludwig was not cut out for practical work.

In contrast, because of his mathematical gifts, he was allowed to attend the Gymnasium in Bern in 1829. By that time he was already learning differential calculus from Abraham Gotthelf Kästner's Mathematische Anfangsgründe der Analysis des Unendlichen (1761). In 1831 he transferred to the Akademie in Bern for further studies. By 1834 the Akademie had become the new Universität Bern, where he started studying theology.

Teaching

After his graduation in 1836, he was appointed a secondary school teacher in Thun. He stayed there until 1847, spending his free time studying mathematics and botany while attending the university in Bern once a week.

A turning point in his life came in 1843. Schläfli had...
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