1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lobachevskiy, Nicolas Ivanovich

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LOBACHEVSKIY, NICOLAS IVANOVICH (1793–1856), Russian mathematician, was born at Makariev, Nizhniy-Novgorod, on the 2nd of November (N.S.) 1793. His father died about 1800, and his mother, who was left in poor circumstances, removed to Kazan with her three sons. In 1807 Nicolas, the second boy, entered as a student in the University of Kazan, then recently established. Five years later, having completed the curriculum, he began to take part in the teaching, becoming assistant professor in 1814 and extraordinary professor two years afterwards. In 1823 he succeeded to the ordinary professorship of mathematics, and retained the chair until about 1846, when he seems to have fallen into official disfavour. At that time his connexion with the university to which he had devoted his life practically came to an end, except that in 1855, at the celebration of his jubilee, he brought it as a last tribute his Pangéométrie, in which he summarized the results of his geometrical studies. This work was translated into German by H. Liebmann in 1902. He died at Kazan on the 24th of February (N.S.) 1856. Lobachevskiy was one of the first thinkers to apply a critical treatment to the fundamental axioms of geometry, and he thus became a pioneer of the modern geometries which deal with space other than as treated by Euclid. His first contribution to non-Euclidian geometry is believed to have been given in a lecture at Kazan in 1826, but the subject is treated in many of his subsequent memoirs, among which may be mentioned the Geometrische Untersuchungen zur Theorie der Parallellinien (Berlin, 1840, and a new edition in 1887), and the Pangéométrie already referred to, which in the subtitle is described as a précis of geometry founded on a general and rigorous theory of parallels. (See Geometry, § Non-Euclidean, and Geometry, § Axioms of.) In addition to his geometrical studies, he made various contributions to other branches of mathematical science, among them being an elaborate treatise on algebra (Kazan, 1834). Besides being a geometer of power and originality, Lobachevskiy was an excellent man of business. Under his administration the University of Kazan prospered as it had never done before; and he not only organized the teaching staff to a high degree of efficiency, but arranged and enriched its library, furnished instruments for its observatory, collected specimens for its museums and provided it with proper buildings. In order to be able to supervise the erection of the last, he studied architecture, with such effect, it is said, that he was able to carry out the plans at a cost considerably below the original estimates.

See F. Engel, N. I. Lobatchewsky (Leipzig, 1899).