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Benjamin Peirce

For others with a similar name, see Benjamin Pierce.

Benjamin Peirce (April 4, 1809 - October 6, 1880) was an American mathematician who taught at Harvard University for forty years. He made contributions in celestial mechanics, number theory, algebra, and philosophy of mathematics.

After graduating from Harvard, he became a tutor there (1829), then was appointed professor of mathematics in 1831. He added astronomy to his portfolio in 1842, and remained as Harvard professor until his death. In addition, he was instrumental in the development of Harvard's science curriculum, served as the school's librarian, and was director of the U.S. Coast Survey from 1867 from 1874.

In number theory, he proved there is no odd perfect number with fewer than four prime factors.

In algebra, he was notable for the study of linear associative algebras, those based on linear combinations (such as quaternions) where the associative law holds. He first introduced the terms idempotent and nilpotent in connection with categorizing these algebras.

In the philosophy of mathematics, he became known for the statement that "Mathematics is the science that draws necessary conclusions", and believed, along with George Boole, that mathematics could be used to analyze logic. This was in opposition to the program of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell to base mathematics on logic.

His son Charles Peirce was also an accomplished scientist and scholar.

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