It is common knowledge in the mathematical community that Leonhard Euler discovered the Gamma Function between late 1729 and early 1730. What is unique about this result is that it is an extremely early example of what seems to be math for mathematics sake; the applications of the function were not discovered until much later. What I was researching was the answer to question of why this specific problem attracted Euler’ s attention. My findings led me down a chain of correspondence between some of the most famous mathematicians of the age: the Bernoulli brothers, John Wallis, James Stirling, and Christian Goldbach. The eventual conclusion is that Goldbach in his work on interpolating series, which had various applications in those times and today, used the factorial series as an example series but could not himself find its general term. He presented this problem to the Bernoulli brothers at various times in the 1720s and Daniel Bernoulli shared it with Euler when they were living and working together in the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.
Evan Eakins, ’07 Renton, WA
Majors: Mathematics, Classical Studies
Sponsor: Stephen Bean