Some links to websites that discuss the life of Galois.
Genius and Biographers: The Fictionalization of Evariste Galois
(Original version published in American Mathematical Monthly, 89, 84
(1982). Winner Ford Writing Award). 27 page article crtiquing other
biographies of Galois, particularly the most well know, the chapter
about him in Men of Mathematics by E. T. Bell, a copy of which
can be found in the Math Lounge. There is a link to a condensed
version of Bell's account lower on this page.
"The investigations of Galois discussed here have told us less about
the man than about his biographers. The misfortune is that the
biographers have been scientists. Because they appreciate his genius a
century after its undisputed establishment, anyone who did not
recognize it at the time is condemned. 'In all the history of
science,' writes Bell, 'there is no completer example of the triumph
of crass stupidity over untamable genius.' 'Is it possible to avoid
the obvious conclusion,' asks Infeld, 'that the regime of
Louis-Philippe was responsible for the early death of one of the
greatest scientists who ever lived?' The underlying assumption is
apparent: Galois was persecuted because he was a genius and all
scientists, to a greater or lesser degree, understand that genius is
not tolerated by mediocrity. A genius must be recognized as such even
when standing drunk at a banquet table with a dagger in his
hand. Anyone who does not recognize him becomes a fool, an assassin or
a prostitute. This is a presumption of the highest
arrogance. Scientists should not be so enamored of
themselves."
"Whatever the reasons behind
the duel, Galois was so convinced of his impending death that he
stayed up all night writing letters to his Republican friends and
composing what would become his mathematical testament, the famous
letter to Auguste Chevalier outlining his ideas. Hermann Weyl, one of
the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, said of this
testament, "This letter, if judged by the novelty and profundity of
ideas it contains, is perhaps the most substantial piece of writing in
the whole literature of mankind." However, the legend of Galois
pouring his mathematical thoughts onto paper the night before he died
seems to have been exaggerated. In these final papers he outlined the
rough edges of some work he had been doing in analysis and annotated a
copy of the manuscript submitted to the academy and other
papers."
"Galois was wounded in
the duel and was abandoned by d'Herbinville and his own seconds and
found by a peasant. He died in Cochin hospital on 31 May and his
funeral was held on 2 June. It was the focus for a Republican rally
and riots followed which lasted for several days.
Galois' brother and his friend Chevalier copied his mathematical
papers and sent them to Gauss, Jacobi and others. It had been Galois'
wish that Jacobi and Gauss should give their opinions on his work. No
record exists of any comment these men made. However the papers
reached Liouville who, in September 1843, announced to the Academy
that he had found in Galois' papers a concise solution.
...as correct as it is deep of this lovely problem: Given an
irreducible equation of prime degree, decide whether or not it is
soluble by radicals.
Liouville published these papers of Galois in his Journal in 1846. "
"Just a few days after the unexpected death of his father, Galois took
the the entrance examination to the École Polytechnique for the second
time. It became a legend in the history of mathematics. He was aware
that a refusal would be final this time, if he would flunk again. The
examiners, though being recognized mathematicians, were not capable of
detecting the mathematical genius of Evariste Galois. One of the two
examiners asked the fatal question: He should describe the theory of
the arithmetic logarithms. Galois criticized immediately the question,
and mentioned to professor Dinet that there are no arithmetic
logarithms. Why didn't he simply ask for the theory of the logarithms?
Thereupon Galois refused to explain some propositions concerning
logarithms. He said that it was completely obvious!
This was apparently the dot on the i: He failed the examination."
"In all the
history of science there is no completer example of the triumph of
crass stupidity over untamable genius than is afforded by the all too
brief life of Evariste Galois."
"It is only a
slight exaggeration to say that the myth of Galois is the first and
primary story that novice mathematicians learn about being a
mathematician."