Bernhard Riemann Biography

Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann, a German mathematician, made significant contributions to differential geometry, number theory, and complex analysis. Despite being born into a poor family, Riemann displayed exceptional mathematical skills from a young age. After completing his elementary education at home, he pursued formal education in Hanover and Lüneburg. Initially, Riemann aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor, but he later decided to pursue a career in mathematics. He furthered his studies at the University of Berlin, where he received his bachelor’s degree. Riemann then returned to Göttingen, where he spent the remainder of his life. Despite his short lifespan of only thirty-nine years, Riemann’s groundbreaking work in mathematics influenced future research and laid the groundwork for Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Quick Facts

  • German Celebrities Born In September Died At Age: 39
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Elise Koch
    • Father: Friedrich Bernhard Riemann
    • Mother: Charlotte Ebells
    • Siblings: Clara Riemann, Helene Riemann, Ida Riemann, Marie Riemann, Wilhelm Riemann
  • Mathematicians
  • German Men
  • Died on: July 20, 1866
  • Place of death: Selasca, Kingdom of Italy
  • Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
  • More Facts
  • Education: Humboldt University of Berlin, Georg-August University of Göttingen

Childhood & Early Life

Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann was born on 17 September 1826 in Breselenz, Germany. His father, Friedrich Bernhard Riemann, was a poor Lutheran minister, and his mother’s name was Charlotte nee Ebell. Georg was the second of six children. He was shy and introverted from a young age and lost his mother early in his life. He received his elementary education from his father until the age of ten, and then a local school teacher named Schulz helped educate him.


Riemann showed exceptional skills in mathematics, particularly in calculus, even as a child. In 1840, he was sent to live with his grandmother in Hanover, where he entered the third class at the Lyceum. He continued his studies at the Hanover lyceum until his grandmother’s death in 1842. He then attended Johanneum Lüneburg, a high school in Lüneburg, where he excelled in mathematics.

Initially, Riemann aspired to become a pastor like his father, but his mathematical abilities caught the attention of his teachers. He received books on mathematics from the director of the gymnasium and quickly mastered them. Eventually, he gained permission from his father to focus on mathematics.

University and Career

In 1846, Riemann entered the University of Göttingen to study theology and philosophy. He also attended mathematics classes taught by Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss and Moritz Stern. Recognizing Riemann’s talent and interest in mathematics, his father allowed him to pursue it further.

Riemann moved to the University of Berlin in 1847, where he studied under renowned professors such as Jacobi, Steiner, Eisenstein, and Lejeune Dirichlet. In 1849, he returned to Göttingen to work on his doctoral thesis under the guidance of Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss. He submitted his thesis on complex variables and Riemann surfaces in 1851.

After completing his doctoral work, Riemann worked as a Privatdozent at the University of Göttingen. He also prepared for his Habilitation, which would qualify him to become a lecturer. His probationary essay on Fourier series and his probationary lecture on the hypotheses underlying geometry were both highly influential.

In 1857, Riemann was appointed an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Göttingen. He became a full professor in 1859 and was elected to the Berlin Academy of Sciences. His work on the number of primes less than a given magnitude had a significant impact on mathematical research.

Major Works and Legacy

Riemann’s most notable contributions were in the study of geometry, where he proposed that space could have infinite dimensions. He also made significant contributions to the theory of functions, complex analysis, and number theory. His work inspired further developments in non-Euclidean geometry and provided the mathematical foundation for Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Riemann married Elise Koch in 1862, and they had a daughter named Ida. Unfortunately, Riemann’s health began to decline, and he suffered from pleuritis. He spent time in Italy to improve his health but ultimately passed away in 1866 at the age of 39.

Riemann’s impact on mathematics is still felt today. Many terms and concepts have been named in his honor, and his collected works continue to be studied. He is remembered as both an outstanding mathematician and someone with a strong inclination towards philosophy.

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