1700, Groningen - 1782, Basel
Daniel Bernoulli was the son ofJohann Bernoulli. He was born in Groningen while his father held the chair of mathematics there. His older brother was Nicolaus(II) Bernoulli and his uncle was Jacob Bernoulli so he was born into a family of leading mathematicians but also into a family where there was unfortunate rivalry, jealousy and bitterness.
When Daniel was five years old the family returned to their native city of Basel where Daniel's father filled the chair of mathematics left vacant on the death of his uncle Jacob Bernoulli When Daniel was five years old his younger brother Johann(II) Bernoulli was born. All three sons would go on to study mathematics but this was not the course that Johann Bernoulli planed for Daniel.
Johann Bernoulli's father had tried to force Johann into a business career and he had resisted strongly. Rather strangely Johann Bernoulli now tried exactly the same with his own son Daniel. First however Daniel was sent to Basel University at the age of 13 to study philosophy and logic. He obtained his baccalaureate examinations in 1715 and went on to obtain his master's degree in 1716. Daniel, like his father, really wanted to study mathematics and during the time he studied philosophy at Basel, he was learning the methods of the calculus from his father and his older brother Nicolaus(II) Bernoulli.
Johann was determined that Daniel should become a merchant and he tried to place him in an apprenticeship. However Daniel was as strongly opposed to this as his own father had been and soon Johann relented but certainly not as far as to let Daniel study mathematics. Johann declared that there was no money in mathematics and so he sent Daniel back to Basel University to study medicine. This Daniel did spending time studying medicine at Heidelberg in 1718 and Strasbourg in 1719. He returned to Basel in 1720 to complete his doctorate in medicine.
By this stage Johann Bernoulli was prepared to teach his son more mathematics while he studied medicine and Daniel studied his father's theories of kinetic energy. What he learn on the conservation of energy from his father he applied to his medical studies and Daniel wrote his doctoral dissertation on the mechanics of breathing. So like his father Daniel had applied mathematical physics to medicine in order to obtain his medical doctorate.
Now Daniel wanted to embark on an academic career like his father so he applied for two chairs at Basel. His application for the chair of anatomy and botany was decided by drawing of lots and he was unlucky in this game of chance. The next chair to fall vacant at Basel that Daniel applied for was the chair of logic, but again the game of chance of the final selection by drawing of lots went against him. Having failed to obtain an academic post, Daniel went to Venice to study practical medicine.
In Venice Daniel was severely ill and so was unable to carry out his intention of travelling to Padua to further his medical studies. However, while in Venice he worked on mathematics and his first mathematical work was published in 1724 when, with Goldbach's assistance, Mathematical exercises was published. This consisted of four separate parts being four topics that had attracted his interest while in Venice.
The first part described the game of faro and is of little importance other than showing that Daniel was learning about probability at this time. The second part was on the flow of water from a hole in a container and discussed Newton's theories (which were incorrect). Daniel had not solved the problem of pressure by this time but again the work shows that his interest was moving in this direction. His medical work on the flow of blood and blood pressure also gave him an interest in fluid flow. The third part of Mathematical exercises was on the Riccati differential equation while the final part was on a geometry question concerning figures bounded by two arcs of a circle.
While in Venice, Daniel had also designed an hour glass to be used at sea so that the trickle of sand was constant even when the ship was rolling in heavy seas. He submitted his work on this to the Paris Academy and in 1725, the year he returned from Italy to Basel, he learnt that he had won the prize of the Paris Academy. Daniel had also attained fame through his work Mathematical exercises and on the strength of this he was invited to take up the chair of mathematics at St Petersburg. His brother Nicolaus(II) Bernoulli was also offered a chair of mathematics at St Petersburg so in late 1725 the two brothers travelled to St Petersburg.
Within eight months of their taking up the appointments in St Petersburg Daniel's brother died of fever. Daniel was left, greatly saddened at the loss of his brother and also very unhappy with the harsh climate. He thought of returning to Basel and wrote to his father telling him how unhappy he was in St Petersburg. Johann Bernoulli was able to arrange for one of his best pupils, Leonard Euler, to go to St Petersburg to work with Daniel. Euler arrived in 1727 and this period in St Petersburg, which Daniel left in 1733, was to be his most productive time.
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Daniel Bernoulli: Biography
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