In 1927 Louis-Gustave Du Pasquier (1876-1957) published a biography of Leonhard Euler entitled Euler et ses Amis. This book represents a faithful translation of this text and is a welcome addition to the literature.
The prologue, written by Ronald Calinger, presents the historiography behind the study of Euler and mathematical biographies in general. This is worth reading all by itself and includes an outstanding bibliography.
As for the text itself, Euler’s life and work in mathematics are intertwined with others around him, particularly the Bernoulli family. A much more personal glimpse of Euler is seen in this volume than elsewhere. An entire section of Chapter II is devoted to Euler’s family. We read of his eldest son, Johann-Albrecht and learn more about him than just his mere existence. In discussing Euler’s 13 children and 38 grandchildren, the author remarks, “His family is representative of the prolific nature of family and the horrendous tally of infant mortality endemic to the 18th century.” (page 30)
The volume also includes an excellent “outline” of Euler’s mathematical work. It is not intended to present the mathematics in any sort of detail. There are plenty of other sources for the mathematical content.
The other major biography of Euler, Leonhard Euler by Emil Fellmann (Birkhäuser, 2007) obviously presents the same “facts” about Euler’s life, but the volume under review shows a bit more about Euler the person. The Fellman text should be read along with this volume. They are both important works.
I have always felt that a good biography of a mathematician should say more than “They were born, did mathematics, and died.” By that definition, this text is certainly a good biography of a mathematician.
Thank you John Glaus for making this gem available to us.
Herbert E. Kasube is Professor of Mathematics at Bradley University in Peoria, IL.