EL 118 Final Project: The Tragic History of Evariste Galois

A study of the fabled life of a brilliant mathematician using discrete models of mathematical logic

Dylan Cashman

DISCLAIMER: The author of this work did not intend for this to be a factual biography. It is in no way to be used as factual evidence in the study of Galois' life. It also is not a formal treatise, in any way, of modern mathematics. It is simply an exploratory project.The author of this work did not intend for this to be a factual biography. It is in no way to be used as factual evidence in the study of Galois' life. It also is not a formal treatise, in any way, of modern mathematics. It is simply an exploratory project.

The biography is divided up into seven different versions of the same story. They range from the most abstract, Biography 7, to the most literal, Biography 1.

Positively sloped line

A subgroup is formed from the elements of the French wealthy elite, and its intersection with the Galois group was the single element, Evariste. This subgroup is the students at the Ecole Preparatoire, a type of academic group that has fewer stipulations of admittance.

Either way, the man met politicians and not mathematicians and he became a politician. It seems as if it is feasible to conclude something about that. However, there is still some exception to him. His politics made him famous and infamous when he criticized the headmaster of the school and was subsequently kicked out. This streak of rash behavior without knowledge of the consequences continues in him for the rest of his life, but is it just naivety? Unfortunately, not enough data was gathered to draw a conclusion with any amount of accuracy.

He first became known amongst the liberal party when he wrote a letter to a local newspaper exposing the political hypocrisy of the headmaster of his school. For this, he was expelled, and free to participate in the revolution full time. He joined the national guard, which, in its dedication to Bonapartist ideals, at the time was simply a gathering point for revolutionaries, and became well-known in political circles.

At a banquet for an opposition party group entitled the Societe des Amis du Peuple, political scandal found Galois just years after it had so tortured his father. The atmosphere of the party was infused with gunpowder - it was a gathering of fiery, radically liberal thinkers, behind closed doors. There were a number of raucous toasts throughout the evening, but one trumped them all in its boldness - that of Evariste Galois. After imbibing enough wine to considerable alter his faculties of reason, Evariste took out a jack knife that he had procured for reasons still unknown, and thrust it into the air. He accompanied this gesture with an ironic statement: To Louis-Philippe! The other banqueters were shocked; did he just threaten the new king of France while brandishing a weapon? Many cheered loudly; Galois had voiced the same thing they all wished to, and they felt that it was a reasonable suggestion. However, many others feared to be associated with treason of such a drastic level, and many panicked attendees trampled out the door.

Galois was arrested the following day by officers of the king, in front of his mother at her new house. He was subsequently put on trial in a spectacle of publicity for the opposition party. Dozens of witnesses were called, and Galois became somewhat of a spearhead for the movement. Eventually, the court ruled that Galois was not guilty of any crime. His innocence did not last long, however. Soon after, in a celebration of the anniversary of the original riots against the crown that Galois did not get to participate in, the opposition party planned another set of protests. They soon became riots, and Galois was one of the most vehement members of the riot. He wore his National Guard uniform even though he was no longer a member, and carried also with him the pistols and weaponry he had been given from that position. Galois was incredibly invested in the politics of his party; he served his duty with the same dedication that, only a year earlier, he had applied himself to the study of mathematics. In spite of the obvious danger, Galois tried to appear as repugnant as possible, military gear in full tow. When the riots were broken up, he was charged with unlawful possession of weapons, amongst other small crimes, and was sentenced to nine months in jail. Galois had finally become a political prisoner; his profession had finally officially changed!

During his political activity, Galois still kept up with his math studies. He summarized all his findings in another memoire and submitted it in late 1829 as an application for the Grand Prix de Mathematiques, a prestigious award given out by the Academie des Sciences. However, bad luck struck again. The French mathematician Fourier took home Evariste's submission to study, and two weeks later he mysteriously died. The memoire appeared to slip through the cracks like its two predecessors, but this time Evariste was dogged in his pursuit for a response. He wrote letters and eventually resorted to utilizing a newspaper to create negative press for the Academy. The Academy did review his memoire; however, they did not understand it. It was dismissed as unfinished. Galois was ultimately frustrated with the math system in France. His work, now several years old, had still not been recognized. When it had finally been given a chance, it was dismissed as lacking attention to detail and proper notation, aspects of the work that Galois himself knew were not important. While in prison for his political actions, Galois often pondered deeply on what had happened with his life. He had lost faith in the world of mathematics; his genius had been smothered.

While Galois was in prison, a cholera epidemic broke out in Paris. Since the close quarters of the prison were believed to serve as a breeding ground for sickness, many of the prisoners, including Galois, were moved to a more spacious clinic under the care of Doctor Jean-Louis Poterin-Dumotel. While staying there, Galois met and fell in love with the doctor's daughter, Stephanie. The two exchanged letters, but evidently Evariste's love was unrequited; Stephanie turned him down, insisting that the two stay platonic. Evariste was crushed; he had failed in yet another aspect of human life. Upon finally leaving the prison, he was dejected and dispirited.

Galois was released from prison in early 1831, and immediately immersed himself in his old political party. The party had decided that the tidings were good for a massive political movement. They were confounded as to how to gather a large enough people to illicit any kind of change. The subject of rioting at a funeral of a member was brought up and quickly approved. Galois offered his body to be sacrificed; the protests would take place at his highly-publicized funeral. A scheme was hatched to make the details of his death murky, and plans were set. The night before his death, Galois recorded many of his thoughts on mathematics. These thoughts proved too be brilliant and incredibly intricate; they are still studied today. In the morning, Galois entered into a fixed duel, and was shot and killed. Thousands showed up to his funeral, but, in the end, political leaders decided that it was not in their best interests to riot at Evariste's funeral. They chose a different, more public person who had died days after Galois.