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MAA Acquires Euler Archive

Leonhard Euler Gets Online

While many Americans associate April 15 with the dreaded deadline for filing tax returns, mathematicians can celebrate the birthday of one of the greats, Leonhard Euler.

The most prolific mathematical writer of all time, Euler published more than 800 papers in his lifetime. He made important contributions to the fields of number theory, infinitesimal calculus, applied mathematics, graph theory, and mathematical notation, to name a few.

"The volume and diversity of Euler's work means that a complete study is an enormous undertaking, one which very few people have the time and breadth of expertise to undertake," mathematician Dominic Klyve says.

To help scholars undertake studies of Euler's remarkable achievements, Klyve and Lee Stemkoski began building the Euler Archive in 2002 while pursuing their graduate degrees at Dartmouth. Today, Klyve and Stemkoski are both assistant mathematics professors, and the Euler Archive is the largest online collection of Euler's papers and books in the world.

On April 15, 2011, Euler's 304th birthday, the archive moved into its new home on the Mathematical Association of America's website (http://eulerarchive.maa.org/).

The archive has been on Dartmouth College's math department servers for eight years, but, according to Klyve, Dartmouth was never intended to be a permanent home. "There wasn't a better option until now," he says.

"Through casual conversations with [MAA staff] Ivars Peterson, Michael Pearson, and Don Albers over the years, we became convinced that the MAA was a natural and perfect home for the resource," Klyve says. "It's too big and important at this point to be directly linked to just a few individuals, and we're very happy to be able to place it under the institutional support of the MAA." The MAA is now hosting the online archive free to the public.

In a 2007 MAA FOCUS interview (pdf) with Don Albers, he noted, "Many of Euler's papers have been read by something like three living people, and no one has taken the time to write about them, or think hard about them, much less translate them. There are hundreds and hundreds of papers out there that a mathematician or a mathematics student can really dive into and get something out of."

Klyve says the biggest benefit of having the archive online is the instant access that the world now has to Euler's works. "This access has been directly responsible for many of the translations and research papers that have come out during the last five years, and we couldn't be prouder of this," he says.

In addition to Euler's more famous writings, the Euler Archive features several dozen translations of Euler's works that aren't available anywhere else.

"Many of his papers (though not enough) have summaries, commentaries, and notes that exist nowhere else," Klyve says. "We have a searchable and cross-referenced list of all of his correspondence. . . . For each of Euler's 866 works, we maintain a bibliography, listing every instance (that we know of) when that work has been cited in another piece of research.

"In addition to all of this, we have a body of historical material relating to Euler's life, times, and the Academies that Euler worked for. These can quickly help the Euler novice get up to speed. We've culled many resources to focus on the Euler-specific parts, and these summaries (almost all of which are by Erik Tou) haven't appeared or been published elsewhere."

While math historians and teachers of math history might benefit the most from the Euler Archive, Klyve says any mathematician would enjoy reading Euler's works.-Laura McHugh

  • Explore the Euler Archive on MAA for yourself.
  • Read more about the history of the archive in the January 2007 issue of MAA FOCUS (pdf).
  • Look for an article by Dominic Klyve in the June-July 2011 issue of MAA FOCUS.

 

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4369
News Date: 
Friday, April 15, 2011

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