Niels Henrik Abel (5 August 1802 – 6 April 1829) was a noted Norwegian mathematician who proved the impossibility of solving the quintic equation in radicals.
Niels Henrik Abel was born in Nedstrand, Norway, as second child to Søren Georg Abel and Anne Marie Simonsen. When he was born, the family was living at the rectory at Finnøy. Much suggests that Niels Henrik was born in the neighboring parish, as his parents were guests of the bailiff in Nedstrand in July / August of his year of birth.[note 1]
Niels Henrik Abel's father, Søren Georg Abel, had a degree in theology and philosophy and served as pastor at Finnøy. Søren's father, Niels's grandfather, Hans Mathias Abel, was also a pastor, at Gjerstad near Risør. Søren had spent his childhood at Gjerstad, and had also served as chaplain there; and after his father's death in 1804, Søren was appointed pastor at Gjerstad and the family moved there.
Anne Marie Simonsen was from Risør; her father, Niels Henrik Saxild Simonsen, was a tradesman and merchant ship-owner, and said to be the richest person in Risør. Anne Marie had grown up with two stepmothers, in relative luxurious surroundings. At Gjerstad rectory, she enjoyed arranging balls and social gatherings. Much suggests she was early on an alcoholic and took little interest in the upbringing of the children. Niels Henrik and his brothers were given their schooling by their father, with handwritten books to read. Interestingly, an addition table in a book of mathematics reads: 1+0=0.
Cathedral School and Royal Frederick University
With Norwegian independence, and first election held in Norway, in 1814, Søren Abel was elected as a representative to the Storting. Meetings of the Storting were held until 1866 in the main hall of the Cathedral School in Christiania (now known as Oslo). Almost certainly this is how he came into contact with the school, and he decided that his eldest son, Hans Mathias, should start there the following year. However, when the time for his departure approached, Hans was so saddened and depressed over having to leave home that his father did not dare send him away. He decided to send Niels instead.
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