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Evariste Galois
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Mathematician
    (October 25, 1811-May 31, 1832)
    Born in Bourg-la-Reine, France
    Laid the foundations of group theory in algebra
    Died in a duel at age 20
    He flunked the exam for the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique, reportedly after he responded to a question by throwing an eraser at the examiner (1829).
    He was expelled from the Ecole Normale for writing a letter to the editor criticizing the school's director (1830).
    He was arrested (but acquitted) for threatening the life of King Louis Philippe (1831).
    He was jailed six months for participating in a Bastille Day protest while wearing the uniform of the banned National Guard artillery (1831).
    His death inspired conspiracy theories that the duel was stage-managed by royalist forces to eliminate a political enemy.
    His father had committed suicide a few days before his Ecole Polytechnique exam, which may explain his short temper.
    He submitted a paper on polynomial equations to Joseph Fourier that was considered a frontrunner for the Grand Prix of the Academy of Sciences; however, Fourier died soon after and the paper was lost in the shuffle (1830).
    The night before the duel, he wrote a letter outlining his ideas that was described by 20th-century mathematician Hermann Weyl as 'perhaps the most substantial piece of writing in the whole literature of mankind.'
    His last words, addressed to his brother, were 'Don't cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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