The inspiring story of Evarist Galois: But have you heard of him?

A story about Algebra and Évariste Galois, a young Frenchmen. The more I tugged at the story, the more inspiring it became.

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Évariste Galois

He grew up without a hitch in a middle-class family. At fourteen, he discovered maths, fell in love with it, and had one last affair with this mistress before life killed him six years later.

Galois was ahead of his time. His insights into algebra could not be understood by the giants of the 1800s. Despite this, he found himself rejected from the leading mathematical institutions.

The rejections didn’t end here. Every college turned his mathematical papers down for publication with murky justification. It was a time when who you knew was much more important than what you knew, and Galois was seventeen.

That same year his father killed himself. And a little later, he found himself in jail for political crimes – speaking ill of the king.

As a boy in prison, his feelings escaped after a night of drinking loosened his tongue.
“Do you know what I lack, my friend? I can confide it only to you: it is someone whom I can love and love only in spirit. I’ve lost my father, and no one has ever replaced him, do you hear me…?”

While locked up, he never stopped working on his love. Mathematics was as sustaining for him as the bread he ate. His work was never appreciated. He was a boy in the political world of men.

A few months after his release from prison, now twenty, he found himself in a duel for the honour of a woman. Settling disagreements in a shootout was common for the time. It’s almost how Abraham Lincoln met his end after being challenged by a man he openly mocked. While Lincoln’s duel never went ahead, Évariste Galois’s did.

Feeling his death was imminent, he went to work. Not fleeing, not preparing, not scheming, but doing maths. He wrote out the rest of his ideas and tidied others up if he never got the chance to return. There was no last supper or sleep for Galois. He stayed up working through the night on his mathematic ideas with the fury anyone else would have saved for tomorrow’s duel.

The two men walked their paces, turned their backs and swivelled their guns. Galois hit the ground with a bullet to the stomach. Death found him the next day, but not before his last words to his brother Alfred.

“Ne pleure pas, Alfred ! J’ai besoin de tout mon courage pour mourir à vingt ans !”
(Don’t cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty!)

Évariste Galois

The significance of Galois’s work eventually found its way into mathematics.

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Published in Life, life lessons, Philosophy, Relationships, Stories
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