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.

Vertical line

We note that after a lengthy process, the Evariste element terminates. At the same time, many other common elements in the political subgroup containing Evariste increase in value and significance. It is as if the element Evariste had some hand in the destiny of the others. Mathematics is a strange and uncommon phenomenon.

Evidently depressed, with very little magnitude, Evariste left jail a fraction of what he had been before. For this, he offered himself as an element of catalyst for his political beliefs. We can classify him as a martyr (he died, if you care, in a fixed duel in which the pistol he held was not even loaded with bullets). However, he was not a catalyst - he failed in ending his own life for a purpose. Maybe it was what he wanted, though - he may have had a romanticized idea of suicide from his father. Evariste, at the conclusion of his life, degenerated, and disappeared. However, later studies and academics revealed him as the generator for all that we can study in algebra (and this whole thing, too!).

Evariste found only one more use for his life - a sacrifice. He foresaw himself receiving acclaim for martyrdom. Filling out the stranger-than-fiction narrative of his life, at the time of his release from jail, his political group, the Societe des Amis du Peuple, had decided that it needed a funeral to stage a final, violent riot at. Since the first days of his political activism, Galois had been fascinated by the idea of self-sacrifice. He may have seen it as a way of re-uniting with his father, both in the afterlife and in their methods of dieing. The members of his party protested at first, but eventually they gave in. Evariste's fame and notoriety would make him the perfect martyr for the cause - he was well known both because of his place in academics, and the publicity surrounding both of his court cases and his expulsion from school.

An intricate plot was crafted, which included Galois and others writing false documents such as letters and journal entries that suggested that Galois had no idea of his imminent death. Many of the writings actually suggested that his death might be the result of the tyranny of the Bourbons. His actual death was also planned out. He was to engage in a duel with another member of the Society, except he was to be holding a blank pistol. They would both march ten paces paces, turn, and fire. His opponent's pistol, however, was actually loaded.

Galois feared death in that it was an ending to any of his earthly accomplishments. Because of this, he wrote a letter to his friend and confidant, Augustin Chevalier, within which he tried to summarize many of the thoughts that swam in his head regarding mathematics. The point of the letter was clear; Augustin was not a mathematician, and Galois mentioned nothing of the plot for his life. It was solely to preserve the ideas that Galois knew were important. What Galois did not know is that the very ideas he put down in that letter would be deciphered, studied, and lauded upon for well over 150 years. And so, like Jesus leaving the Garden of Gethsemane to be betrayed, Galois proceeded to the duel the next day and was killed. The attendees of his funeral numbered in the thousands, and the political atmosphere was saturated with tension. However, during his funeral, news of an important Napoleonic general's death was passed around, and the Society agreed that the General's funeral would be a better-publicized situation to rally around, and the party abandoned Galois' funeral. His death had accomplished nothing - he was no martyr, he was an accident.

At the time of Galois' release, the Societe des Amis du Peuple had concluded that action needed to be taken to overthrow the Bourbons. A dispute over royal succession had arisen, and the Society felt that it was necessary to attack the enemy at its weakest point. A dramatic protest needed to take place, with the hope that sufficient riots would form to overthrow the government. In order for such a spirited, violent group of people to gather, the Society felt that it needed to resort to a drastic measure. It needed a funeral of a prominent member as a rallying point. No one had died recently - someone needed to offer their life.

Galois had often been quoted by friends and family as claiming If I were only sure that a body would be enough to incite the people to revolt, I would offer mine. Dissatisfied with his personal life, disillusioned of the academic world, and effectively estranged from the family that shaped him following the death of his father, Galois finally had the chance to offer himself. After much protest, the Society conceded. Galois and other members helped create a number of alibis and false documents to incite unrest in the publicizing of his death, and a plan was hatched to have Galois die the next day.

Galois was not eager to die. He knew that there was so much that he could have contributed to the scientific world, even if it were not immediately recognized. Half out of nobility and half out of desperation, he frantically wrote down the mostly-formed theories he had not yet published in a letter to his friend Augustin Chevalier, pleading with him to submit them to the Academy for review. The contents of that letter form the basis of Modern Algebra and are still researched today.

Galois died the next day of a gunshot wound. He was set up to duel a member of the Society. Given an unloaded gun, he simply had to wait to receive the life-ending bullet. At his funeral, many people showed up with minds centered on revolution. However, near its beginning, news began to circulate of the death of a prominent general who had been appointed by Napoleon. Liberal leaders decided that the general's funeral would produce more publicity and public sympathy, and decided to postpone the riots for his funeral. Nothing took place at the funeral of Galois. He had died in vain.

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.

When Evariste left jail, he decided to offer his body to the sake of the revolution. He and other party members plotted to have Evariste die in a way that would incite anger among the population. He was shot and killed in a fixed duel, and his funeral had thousands of spectators. However, no riots broke out, and there was no political outcome.

Evariste dies from a gun shot wound.