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Nikolai Lobachevsky
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Mathematician
    (December 1, 1792-February 12, 1856)
    Born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Federation
    Professor and administrator at Kazan University
    Developed non-Euclidean geometry, specifically hyperbolic geometry
    Wrote 'The New Foundations of Geometry' (1838)
    Among non-mathematicians, he is best-remembered as the subject of a Tom Lehrer song in which he declares the secret of success in mathematics to be, 'Plagiarize!... Only be sure to always call it research.'
    Some mathematicians accused him of ripping off the idea for non-Euclidean geometry from Carl Gauss.
    His paper outlining non-Euclidean geometry was rejected by the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.
    The best evidence indicates that he and Gauss developed non-Euclidean geometry independently. (And he, unlike Gauss, went public with the idea.)
    Lehrer admitted he had no reason to believe Lobachevsky plagiarized and chose the name 'solely for prosodic reasons.'
    Non-Euclidean geometry proved extremely useful in modern physics, such as general relativity.
    He had a 'no job too small' attitude at Kazan, resulting in one visitor coming away impressed by the erudition of the University's janitor (who was actually Lobachevsky pitching in).

Credit: C. Fishel


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