Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Évariste Galois (October 25, 1811 – May 31, 1832) was a French mathematician born in Bourg-la-Reine. While still in his teens, he was able to determine a necessary and sufficient condition for a polynomial to be solvable by radicals, thereby solving a long-standing problem. His work laid the foundations for Galois theory, a major branch of abstract algebra, and the subfield of Galois connections. He was the first to use the word "group" (French: groupe) as a technical term in mathematics to represent a group of permutations. A radical Republican during the monarchy of Louis Philippe in France, he died from wounds suffered in a duel under shadowy circumstances at the age of twenty.
Galois was born on October 25, 1811, to Nicolas-Gabriel Galois and Adélaïde-Marie (born Demante). His father was a Republican and was head of Bourg-la-Reine's liberal party. He became mayor of the village after Louis XVIII returned to the throne in 1814. His mother, the daughter of a jurist, was a fluent reader of Latin and classical literature and she was responsible for her son's education for his first twelve years. At the age of 10, Galois was offered a place at the college of Reims, but his mother preferred to keep him at home.
In October 1823, he entered the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, and despite some turmoil in the school at the beginning of the term (where about a hundred students were expelled), Galois managed to perform well for the first two years, obtaining the first prize in Latin. He soon became bored with his studies, and at the age of 14, he began to take a serious interest in mathematics.
He found a copy of Adrien Marie Legendre's Éléments de Géométrie, which it is said that he read "like a novel" and mastered at the first reading. At 15, he was reading the original papers of Joseph Louis Lagrange, such as the landmark Réflexions sur la résolution algébrique des équations which likely motivated his later work on equation theory, and Leçons sur le calcul des fonctions, work intended for professional mathematicians, yet his classwork remained uninspired, and his teachers accused him of affecting ambition and originality in a negative way.
In 1828, he attempted the entrance exam to École Polytechnique, the most prestigious institution for mathematics in France at the time, without the usual preparation in mathematics, and failed for lack of explanations on the oral examination. In that same year, he entered the École Normale (then known as l'École préparatoire), a far inferior institution for mathematical studies at that time, where he found some professors sympathetic to him.
In the following year, Galois' first paper, on continued fractions, was published. It was at around the same time that he began making fundamental discoveries in the theory of polynomial equations. He submitted two papers on this topic to the Academy of Sciences. Augustin Louis Cauchy refereed these papers, but refused to accept them for publication for reasons that still remain unclear. However, in spite of many claims to the contrary, it appears that Cauchy recognized the importance of Galois' work, and that he merely suggested combining the two papers into one in order to enter it in the competition for the Academy's Grand Prize in Mathematics. Cauchy, a highly eminent mathematician of the time considered Galois' work to be a likely winner.
On July 28, 1829, Galois' father committed suicide after a bitter political dispute with the village priest. A couple of days later, Galois took his second, and final attempt at entering the Polytechnique, and failed yet again. It is undisputed that Galois was more than qualified; however, accounts differ on why he failed. The legend holds that he thought the exercise proposed to him by the examiner to be of no interest, and, in exasperation, he threw the rag used to clean up chalk marks on the blackboard at the examiner's head. More plausible accounts state that Galois made too many logical leaps and baffled the incompetent examiner, evoking irascible rage in Galois. The recent death of his father may have also influenced his behavior.
Having been denied admission to the Polytechnique, Galois took the Baccalaureate examinations in order to enter the Ecole Normale. He passed, receiving his degree on December 29, 1829. His examiner in mathematics reported, "This pupil is sometimes obscure in expressing his ideas, but he is intelligent and shows a remarkable spirit of research."
His memoir on equation theory would be submitted several times, but was never published in his lifetime due to various events. As noted before, his first attempt was refused by Cauchy, but he tried again in February 1830 after following Cauchy's suggestions and submitted it to the Academy's secretary Fourier, to be considered for the Grand Prix of the Academy. Unfortunately, Fourier died soon after, and the memoir was lost. The prize would be awarded that year to Abel posthumously and also to Jacobi. Despite the lost memoir, Galois published three papers that year, two of which laid the foundations for Galois theory, and the third, an important one on number theory, where the concept of a finite field was first articulated.
Galois lived during a time of political turmoil in France. Charles X had succeeded Louis XVIII in 1824, but in 1827 his party suffered a major electoral setback and by 1830 the opposition liberal party became the majority. Charles, faced with abdication, staged a coup d'état, and issued his notorious July Ordinances, touching off the July Revolution which ended with Louis-Philippe becoming king. While their counterparts at Polytechnique were making history in the streets during the les Trois Glorieuses, Galois and all the other students at the École Normale were locked in by the school's director. Galois was incensed and he wrote a blistering letter criticizing the director which he submitted to the Gazette des Écoles, signing the letter with his full name. Despite the fact that the Gazette's editor redacted the signature for publication, Galois was, predictably, expelled for it.
Although his expulsion would have formally taken effect on January 4, 1831, Galois quit school immediately and joined the staunchly Republican artillery unit of the National Guard. These and other political affiliations continually distracted him from mathematical work. Due to controversy surrounding the unit, soon after Galois became a member, on December 31, 1830, the artillery of the National Guard was disbanded out of fear that they might destabilize the government. At around the same time, nineteen officers of Galois' former unit were arrested and charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government.
In April, the nineteen officers were acquitted of all charges, and on May 9, 1831, a banquet was celebrated in their honor, with many illustrious people present, such as Alexandre Dumas. The proceedings became more riotous, and Galois proposed a toast to King Louis-Philippe with a dagger above his cup, which was interpreted as a threat against the king's life. He was arrested the following day, but was acquitted on June 15.
On the following Bastille Day, Galois was at the head of a protest, wearing the uniform of the disbanded artillery, and came heavily armed with several pistols, a rifle, and a dagger. For this, he was again arrested and this time sentenced to six months in prison for illegally wearing a uniform. He was released on April 29, 1832. During his imprisonment, he continued developing his mathematical ideas.
Galois returned to mathematics after his expulsion from the École Normale, although he was constantly distracted by his political activities. After his expulsion became official in January 1831, he attempted to start a private class in advanced algebra which did manage to attract a fair bit of interest, but this waned, as it seemed that his political activism had priority. Simeon Poisson asked him to submit his work on the theory of equations, which he did on January 17. Around July 4, Poisson declared Galois' work "incomprehensible", declaring that "[Galois'] argument is neither sufficiently clear nor sufficiently developed to allow us to judge its rigor"; however, the rejection report ends on an encouraging note: "We would then suggest that the author should publish the whole of his work in order to form a definitive opinion." While Poisson's report was made before Galois' Bastille Day arrest, it took some time for it to reach Galois, which it finally did in October that year, while he was imprisoned. It is unsurprising, in the light of his character and situation at the time, that Galois reacted violently to the rejection letter, and he decided to forget about having the Academy publish his work, and instead publish his papers privately through his friend Auguste Chevalier. Apparently, however, Galois did not ignore Poisson's advice and began collecting all his mathematical manuscripts while he was still in prison, and continued polishing his ideas until his release on April 29, 1832.
Galois' fatal duel took place on May 30. The true motives behind the duel will most likely remain forever obscure. There has been a lot of speculation, much of it spurious, as to the reasons behind it. What is known is that five days before his death, he wrote a letter to Chevalier which clearly alludes to a broken love affair.
Some archival investigation on the original letters reveals that the woman he was in love with was apparently a certain Mademoiselle Stéphanie-Felicie Poterin du Motel, the daughter of the physician at the hostel where Galois remained during the final months of his life. Fragments of letters from her copied by Galois himself (with many portions either obliterated, such as her name, or deliberately omitted) are available. The letters give some intimation that Mlle. du Motel had confided some of her troubles with Galois, and this might have prompted him to provoke the duel himself on her behalf. This conjecture is also supported by some of the other letters Galois later wrote to his friends the night before he died. Much more detailed speculation based on these scant historical details has been interpolated by many of Galois' biographers (most notably by Eric Temple Bell in Men of Mathematics), such as the oft-repeated conjecture that the entire incident was stage-managed by the police and royalist factions to eliminate a political enemy.
As to his opponent in the duel, Alexandre Dumas names Pescheux d'Herbinville, one of the nineteen artillery officers on whose acquittal the banquet that occasioned Galois' first arrest was celebrated and du Motel's fiancee. However, Dumas is alone in this assertion, and extant newspaper clippings from only a few days after the duel give a description of his opponent which is inconsistent with d'Herbinville, and more accurately describes one of Galois' Republican friends, most probably Ernest Duchatelet, who was also imprisoned with Galois on the same charges. Given the conflicting information available, the true identity of his killer may well be lost to history.
Whatever the reasons behind the duel, Galois was so convinced of his impending death that he stayed up all night writing letters to his Republican friends and composing what would become his mathematical testament, the famous letter to Auguste Chevalier outlining his ideas. Hermann Weyl, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, said of this testament, "This letter, if judged by the novelty and profundity of ideas it contains, is perhaps the most substantial piece of writing in the whole literature of mankind." However, the legend of Galois pouring his mathematical thoughts onto paper the night before he died seems to have been exaggerated. In these final papers, he outlined the rough edges of some work he had been doing in analysis and annotated a copy of the manuscript submitted to the Academy and other papers.
Early in the morning of May 30, 1832, he was shot in the abdomen and died the following day at ten in the Cochin hospital (probably of peritonitis) after refusing the offices of a priest. He was 20 years old. His last words to his brother Alfred were:
Ne pleure pas, Alfred ! J'ai besoin de tout mon courage pour mourir à vingt ans ! (Don't cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty.)
On June 2, Évariste Galois was buried in a common grave of the Montparnasse cemetery whose exact location is unknown. In the cemetery of his native town - Bourg-la-Reine - a cenotaph in his honour was erected beside the graves of his relatives.
Much of the drama surrounding the legend of his death has been attributed to one source, Eric Temple Bell's Men of Mathematics.
Galois' mathematical contributions were published in full in 1843 when Liouville reviewed his manuscript and declared it sound. It was finally published in the October–November 1846 issue of the Journal de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées. The most famous contribution of this manuscript was a novel proof that there is no quintic formula, that is, that fifth and higher degree equations are not solvable by radicals. Although Abel had already proved the impossibility of a "quintic formula" by radicals in 1824 and Ruffini had published a solution in 1799 that turned out to be flawed, Galois' methods led to deeper research in what is now called Galois theory. For example, one can use it to determine, for any polynomial equation, whether it has a solution by radicals.
Contributions to Mathematics
|“||Tu prieras publiquement Jacobi ou Gauss de donner leur avis, non sur la vérité, mais sur l'importance des théorèmes. |
Après cela, il y aura, j'espere, des gens qui trouveront leur profit à déchiffrer tout ce gâchis.
(Ask Jacobi or Gauss publicly to give their opinion, not as to the truth, but as to the importance of these theorems. Later there will be, I hope, some people who will find it to their advantage to decipher all this mess.)
—Évariste Galois, Lettre de Galois à M. Auguste Chevalier
Unsurprisingly, Galois' collected works amount to only some 60 pages, but within them are many important ideas that have had far-reaching consequences for nearly all branches of mathematics. His work has been compared to that of Niels Henrik Abel, another mathematician who died at a very young age, and much of their work had significant overlap.
While many mathematicians before Galois gave consideration to what are now known as groups, it was Galois who was the first to use the word 'group' (in French groupe) in a sense close to the technical sense that is understood today, making him among the key founders of the branch of algebra known as group theory. He developed the concept that is today known as a normal subgroup. He called the decomposition of a group into its left and right cosets a 'proper decomposition' if the left and right cosets coincide, which is what today is known as a normal subgroup. He also introduced the concept of a finite field (also known as a Galois field in his honor), in essentially the same form as it is understood today.
Galois' most significant contribution to mathematics by far is his development of Galois theory. He realized that the algebraic solution to a polynomial equation is related to the structure of a group of permutations associated with the roots of the polynomial, the Galois group of the polynomial. He found that an equation could be solvable in radicals if one can find a series of subgroups of its Galois group, each one normal its successor with abelian quotient, or its Galois group is solvable. This proved to be a fertile approach, which later mathematicians adapted to many other fields of mathematics besides the theory of equations which Galois originally applied it to.
- ^ Stewart, J., et al. Algebra and Trigonometry. p. 334.
- ^ a b c Stewart, Ian (1973). Galois Theory. London: Chapman and Hall. pp. xvii-xxii. ISBN 0412108003.
- ^ Galois, Évariste (1828). "Démonstration d'un théorème sur les fractions continues périodiques". Annales de Mathématiques XIX: 294. http://www.numdam.org/item?id=AMPA_1828-1829__19__294_0.
- ^ a b c d Rothman, Tony. "Genius and Biographers: The Fictionalization of Evariste Galois". http://www.physics.princeton.edu/~trothman/galois.html. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
- ^ a b c Bell, Eric Temple (1986). Men of Mathematics. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-62818-6.
- ^ a b c d Dupuy, Paul. "La vie d'Évariste Galois". Annales de l'École Normale 13: 197–266.
- ^ Galois, Évariste (1830). "Analyse d'un Mémoire sur la résolution algébrique des équations". Bulletin des Sciences mathématiques XIII: 271.
- ^ Galois, Évariste (1830). "Note sur la résolution des équations numériques". Bulletin des Sciences mathématiques XIII: 413.
- ^ a b Galois, Évariste (1830). "Sur la théorie des nombres". Bulletin des Sciences mathématiques XIII: 428.
- ^ a b Dumas (pére), Alexandre. "CCIV". Mes Mémoires. ISBN 1437155952. http://www.dumaspere.com/pages/bibliotheque/chapitre.php?lid=m3&cid=204. Retrieved 2010-04-13.
- ^ Taton, R. (1947). "Les relations d'Évariste Galois avec les mathématiciensde son temps". Revue d'histoire des sciences et de leurs applications 1: 114. doi:10.3406/rhs.1947.2607.
- ^ Bourgne, R.; J.-P. Azra (1962). Écrits et mémoires mathématiques d'Évariste Galois. Paris: Gauthier-Villars.
- ^ a b c Galois, Évariste (1846). "Lettre de Galois à M. Auguste Chevalier". Journal des mathématiques pures et appliquées XI: 408–415. http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb343487840/date1846. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
- ^ Escofier, Jean-Pierre (2001). Galois Theory. Springer. pp. 224. ISBN 0387987657.
- ^ Rigatelli, Laura Toti (1996). Evariste Galois, 1811-1832 (Vita mathematica, 11). Birkhäuser. pp. 114. ISBN 3764354100.
- ^ Galois, Évariste (1846). "OEuvres mathématiques d'Évariste Galois.". Journal des mathématiques pures et appliquées XI: 381–444. http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb343487840/date1846. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
- ^ a b Lie, Sophus (1895). "Influence de Galois sur le Développement des Mathématiques". Le centenaire de l'École Normale 1795-1985. Hachette.
- Laura Toti Rigatelli, Evariste Galois, Birkhauser, 1996, ISBN 3764354100. This biography challenges the common myth concerning Galois' duel and death.
- Ian Stewart, Galois Theory, Chapman and Hall, 1973, ISBN 0412108003. This comprehensive text on Galois Theory includes a brief biography of Galois himself.
- The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved: How Mathematical Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry by Mario Livio, Souvenir Press 2006, ISBN 0-285-63743-6
- Leopold Infeld. Whom the Gods Love: The Story of Evariste Galois. Reston, Va.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1948. ISBN 0873531256. Classic fictionalized biography by physicist Infeld.
- Jean-Pierre Tignol. Galois's theory of algebraic equations. Singapore: World Scientific, 2001. ISBN 981-02-4541-6. Historical development of Galois theory.
- Alexandre Astruc, Evariste Galois, Flammarion, 1994, ISBN 2-08-066675-4 (in French)
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Évariste Galois", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews, http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Galois.html .
- The Galois Archive (biography, letters and texts in various languages)
- Genius and Biographers: The Fictionalization of Evariste Galois by Tony Rothman
- Biography in French
- La vie d'Évariste Galois by Paul Dupuy The first and still one of the most extensive biographies, referred to by every other serious biographer of Galois
- Œuvres Mathématiques published in 1846 in the Journal de Liouville, converted to Djvu format by Prof. Antoine Chambert-Loir at the University of Rennes.
- A short biography on Holistic Numerical Methods Institute
- Alexandre Dumas, Mes Mémoires, the relevant chapter of Alexandre Dumas' memoires where he mentions Galois and the banquet.
- Évariste Galois at Mathematics Genealogy Project.
- Theatrical trailer of University College Utrecht's "Évariste - En Garde"
Gerard 't Hooft (above) has disputed the validity of Bell's theorem on the basis of the superdeterminism loophole and proposed some ideas to construct local deterministic models.
Superdeterminism is one of a few attempts to show that a local hidden variable theory can reproduce the predictions of quantum mechanics, which if proven, would create a theoretical escape route from Bell's theorem.
Bell's theorem assumes that the types of measurements performed at each detector are chosen independently of each other and of the hidden variable being measured. But in a truly deterministic theory, this would not be the case. Although the experimenters might believe they are making a free and independent choice, their choices are really predetermined by the laws of physics. Since the types of measurements at each detector can be known in advance, the results at one detector can be affected by the type of measurement done at the other without any need for information to travel faster than the speed of light.
Bell acknowledged the loophole, but argued that it was improbable. Even if the measurements performed are chosen by deterministic random number generators, the choices can be assumed to be "effectively free for the purpose at hand," because the machine's choice is altered by a large number of very small effects. It is unlikely for the hidden variable to be sensitive to all of the same small influences that the random number generator was.
Bell discussed superdeterminism in a BBC interview:
There is a way to escape the inference of superluminal speeds and spooky action at a distance. But it involves absolute determinism in the universe, the complete absence of free will. Suppose the world is super-deterministic, with not just inanimate nature running on behind-the-scenes clockwork, but with our behavior, including our belief that we are free to choose to do one experiment rather than another, absolutely predetermined, including the "decision" by the experimenter to carry out one set of measurements rather than another, the difficulty disappears. There is no need for a faster than light signal to tell particle A what measurement has been carried out on particle B, because the universe, including particle A, already "knows" what that measurement, and its outcome, will be.
The only alternative to quantum probabilities, superpositions of states, collapse of the wave function, and spooky action at a distance, is that everything is superdetermined. For me it is a dilemma. I think it is a deep dilemma, and the resolution of it will not be trivial; it will require a substantial change in the way we look at things.
Coming to Perimeter:
Title: Maxwell and a Third 2nd Law of Thermodynamics
Speaker(s): Wayne Myrvold - University of Western Ontario
Abstract: It has long been recognized that there are two distinct laws that go by the name of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The original says that there can be no process resulting in a net decrease in the total entropy of all bodies involved. A consequence of the kinetic theory of heat is that this law will not be strictly true; statistical fluctuations will result in small spontaneous transfers of heat from a cooler to a warmer body. The currently accepted version of the Second Law is probabilistic: tiny spontaneous transfers of heat from a cooler to a warmer body will be occurring all the time, while a larger transfer is not impossible, merely improbable. There can be no process whose expected result is a net decrease in total entropy. According to Maxwell, the Second Law has only statistical validity, and this statement is easily read as an endorsement of the probabilistic version. I argue that a close reading of Maxwell, with attention to his use of "statistical," shows that the version of the second law endorsed by Maxwell is strictly weaker than our probabilistic version. According to Maxwell, even the probable truth of the second law is limited to situations in which we deal with matter only in bulk and are unable to observe or manipulate individual molecules. Maxwell's version does not rule out a device that could, predictably and reliably, transfer heat from a cooler to a warmer body without a compensating increase in entropy. I will discuss the evidence we have for these two laws, Maxwell's and ours.
Date: 11/06/2010 - 11:00 am
Series: Quantum Foundations
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I see no reason to list Witten's accomplishments, as it would make for redundant reading. For details, read Peter Woit's book: Not Even Wrong.
Rather, I would like to acknowledge as to WHY he won, because there are so many reasons to pick from.
The reason, simply, is his diplomatic skills in achieving parity in the ongoing Superstrings Civil War.
For those unaware, Superstrings Theory has split into two camps: One headed by Leonard Susskind of Stanford and allied by Joe Polchinski who support Anthropic, the other by David Gross of The Kavli Institute and just about everyone else at Ed Witten's The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, who reject Anthropic.
Witten, true to his genius form, counsels open-minded fairness regarding "Ships were made to house barnacles" Theory, and refuses to be pegged to either side of the on-going argument.
For meritorious conduct in diplomacy and logical thinking, we are pleased to announce that Edward Witten is the unanimous choice and therefore the winner of The 2010 Most Wonderful Person on Earth Award.
So let it be witten, so let it be done.
Friday, May 28, 2010
I call attention to a recent blog article by Peter Woit at his/Columbia Math Dept.'s website: Not Even Wrong, here, in particular Peter's next-to-last bullet point, which links to a discussion at n-Category Cafe regarding TQFT, or "Topological Quantum Field Theory", here, with Frank Quinn's claims thoughts and the reaction to TQFT.
I'm not sure what to make of it. It seems to me that SuperStrings Theory was always TQFT. I suppose some wish to generalize.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Martin Gardner of Tulsa Oklahoma turned 95 this month. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Martin! I can't remember how many times he livened up my many boring study halls in high school thanks to the column he wrote for Scientific American (from 1956-1981).
Here's my favorite picture of him (yes, we were all young once):
Martin Gardner in the US Navy, 1942. Thank you for your Service, Dr. G !
Martin does not in fact have a Doctorate degree (and being the wonderful modest man he is he'd be the first to tell you), but in the hearts of millions he may as well. If he hasn't been awarded an honorary one that would be a crime. In my heart and home he has one, though.
One thing we remember Gardner for especially is turning us on to the game of "Life." What a beautiful diversion and seemingly Mathematics of a "Pure" variety, it actually has usage across a broad number of fields.
Click here to see Gardner's original article in Oct. 1970 Scientific American, and here to play the game. Pay attention to "Gosper Gliding Gun" and see if that doesn't get you excited. I'm actually working on a version of triangles, not squares, and looking for the "gun" in that scenario. Viva la Emergence !
Gardner has a new book out. Click here to see its Amazon page.
Hey, Dr. Gardner. I have a question for you. We all know that i = the square root of negative one, such that i squared equals negative one. But tell me this:
WHAT is the square root of i ? Tough one, eh?
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Musk at Mission Control
|Born||June 28, 1971 (1971-06-28) (age 38) |
|Education||B.A. in Economics and B.S. Physics from University of Pennsylvania|
|Net worth||US$328 million|
|Known for||co-founder of Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors|
|Title||CEO and CTO of SpaceX |
Chairman of SolarCity
CEO of Tesla Motors
|Spouse(s)||Justine Musk (divorced)|
|Partner||Talulah Riley (fiancée)|
|Children||five sons (50% custody)|
Elon Musk (born June 28, 1971) is a South African-American entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for co-founding PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors. He is currently the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity. According to Jon Favreau, director of the Iron Man movies, Musk is the inspiration for his and Robert Downey Jr.'s interpretation of Tony Stark. 
Musk was born and raised in South Africa, the son of a South African engineer and a Canadian mother who works as a New York City dietitian and model. His father inspired his love of technology and Musk bought his first computer at age 10 and taught himself how to program; by the age of 12 he sold his first commercial software for about $500, a space game called Blastar.
After matriculating at Pretoria Boys High School he left home in 1988 at the age of 17, without his parents' support and in part because of the prospect of compulsory service in the South African military: "I don't have an issue with serving in the military per se, but serving in the South African army suppressing black people just didn't seem like a really good way to spend time." He wanted to move to the US, saying: "It is where great things are possible."
His mother was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and many of his relatives reside in western Canada, so Musk immigrated there in June 1989. He worked at his cousin's wheat farm in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, where he cleaned out grain bins and worked in the vegetable patch. He cleaned out boilers at a lumber mill in British Columbia, later took on the task of cutting logs with a chainsaw. He moved to Toronto and worked a summer in the computer department at a bank while applying to Queen's University. He left Canada in 1992 after getting a scholarship to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. From Wharton he received an undergraduate degree in economics and stayed on another year to finish a second bachelor's degree in physics. His undergraduate degrees behind him, Musk then considered three areas he wanted to get into that were "important problems," as he said later. "One was the Internet, one was clean energy, and one was space."
In 1995, Musk went on to a graduate program in applied physics and materials science at Stanford, in which he stayed exactly two days before dropping out to start Zip2, with his brother Kimbal Musk which provided online content publishing software for news organizations. In 1999, Compaq's AltaVista division acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options.
In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and email payments company. One year later, X.com merged with Confinity, originally a company formed to beam money between Palm Pilots, and the combined entity focused on email payments through the PayPal domain, acquired as part of Confinity. In February 2001, X.com changed its legal name to PayPal. In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock. Before its sale, Musk, the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.
In June 2002, Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), of which he is currently the CEO and CTO. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles, with an emphasis on low cost and high reliability. The company's first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets and its first spacecraft is Dragon.
On 23 December 2008, SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 flights of their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after it retires in 2010. Initially, Falcon 9/Dragon will replace the cargo transport function of the Shuttle and astronaut transport will be handled by the Soyuz. However, SpaceX has designed Falcon 9/Dragon with astronaut transport in mind and the Augustine commission has recommended that astronaut transport be handled by commercial companies like SpaceX.
Musk views space exploration as an important step in expanding — if not preserving — the consciousness of human life. Musk has said that multiplanetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species. "An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: An engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball — or go extinct." Musk's goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 100. He founded SpaceX with $100 million of his early fortune. He remains chief executive officer and chief technology officer of the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company.
In seven years, SpaceX has designed the family of Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon multi-purpose spacecraft from the ground-up. In September 2009, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fueled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit. NASA selected SpaceX to be part of the first program that entrusts private companies to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. This contract, which has a minimum value of $1.6 billion and a maximum value of $3.1 billion, has become a cornerstone of the Space Station. In addition to these services, SpaceX's goals include simultaneously lowering the price of orbital spaceflight and improving reliability, both by a factor of ten, while creating the first fully reusable orbital launch vehicle. In the coming years, Musk will focus on delivering astronauts to the International Space Station, and even Mars.
Musk is perhaps most famous for his role at Tesla Motors, where he was a co-founder and the company's sole product architect and chairman of the board. First investing in April 2004, he led several rounds of financing, and became CEO in October 2008. Tesla Motors builds an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, and plans to produce a more economical four door electric sedan. Musk is principally responsible for an overarching business strategy that aims to deliver affordable electric vehicles to mass-market consumers. His vision was to create the Tesla Roadster as a means to that end—a car aimed specifically at affluent early adopters, who would then buy the sports car and subsidize the research and development costs of lower priced models of electric vehicles. From his earliest involvement with the company, Musk has been a champion of the Model S, a four-door family sedan with an anticipated base price of half that of the Roadster. Musk has also favored building a sub-$30,000 subcompact and building and selling electric vehicle powertrain components so that other automakers can produce electric vehicles at affordable prices without having to develop the products in house. Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his revolutionary work on advanced vehicle powertrains.
He is also the primary investor and Chairman of the Board of SolarCity, a photovoltaics products and services startup company where his cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO. The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.
Musk's fortune was estimated at US$328 million in 2005.
Musk is Chairman of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on science education, pediatric health and clean energy. He is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation, promoting renewable energy technologies. He sits on the boards of The Space Foundation, The National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, The Planetary Society, and Stanford Engineering Advisory Board.
In 2001, Musk had plans for a "Mars Oasis" project, which would land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith. He put this project on hold when he discovered that launch costs would dwarf the mission development and construction costs for the project, and decided to work on creating interplanetary rockets by founding SpaceX.
His long term goal is that SpaceX helps humanity become a true spacefaring civilization. Musk's philosophy and description of what is needed to solve the problem are provided in the IEEE podcast "Elon Musk: a founder of Paypal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX" and article "Risky Business."
Awards and recognition
Listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 people who most affect the world in 2010. Jon Favreau, director of the Iron Man movies, describes in his article how Musk was the inspiration for the genius billionaire Tony Stark.
Recognized as a Living Legend in Aviation in 2010 by the Kitty Hawk Foundation for creating the successor to the Space Shuttle (Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft). Other awardees include Buzz Aldrin and Richard Branson.
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics George Low award for the most outstanding contribution in the field of space transportation in 2007/2008. Musk was recognized for his design of the Falcon 1, the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach orbit.
The Aviation Week 2008 Laureate for the most significant achievement worldwide in the space industry.
R&D Magazine Innovator of the Year for 2007 for SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.
Automotive Executive of the Year (worldwide) in 2010 for demonstrating technology leadership and innovation via Tesla Motors. Prior awardees include Bill Ford Jr, Bob Lutz, Dieter Zetsche and Lee Iacocca. Musk is the youngest ever recipient of this award.
2007 Index Design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster.
Honorary doctorate in humane letters from Amherst College, Massachusetts.
Honorary doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Surrey, UK.
Musk is a Director of the Planetary Society, a Trustee of The X-Prize Foundation and a member of the Stanford University Engineering Advisory Board. He has previously served as a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board.
Musk has described himself as a workaholic who routinely puts in 100-hour work weeks, primarily on his businesses Tesla Motors and SpaceX. In his rare free time, he says he plays with his five children.
Musk owned a McLaren F1 sports car that he purchased for approximately $1 million and sold in 2007 for $1.5 million, and a Czech-built Aero L-39 trainer worth approximately $250,000. The 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft used in the film, Thank You for Smoking (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2006) is registered to Musk (N900SX). Musk is listed as an Executive Producer of the film.
- Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, B.A., Economics
- University of Pennsylvania, B.S., Physics
- Excelled at mathematics and science at Pretoria Boys High School.
Elon Musk's sister Tosca Musk is the founder of Musk Entertainment and producer of various movies. Elon himself was the executive producer of her first movie, called Puzzled. Elon Musk's brother Kimbal Musk is the CEO of a social search company OneRiot and owner of The Kitchen restaurant in Boulder, Colo.
After Musk had confirmed an earlier report that Tesla Motors only had $9 million cash in the bank, he was reported to have hired an outside IT contractor to go through the company's email and instant messages, then had an investigator take fingerprints off a printout discarded near a copier used to leak the email. The email implicated employee Peng Zhou as the source of the company's status. Zhou had sought to frame other employees at Tesla by claiming in his leaked emails that he was a four-year employee. Musk offered Zhou the option of apologizing to the company and resigning, which he did, rather than face prosecution.
After firing Zhou from Tesla Motors, Musk was reported attempting to catch employees who leak corporate secrets, without prior knowledge by other Tesla Motors executives, by sending each employee a slightly altered version of a memo which Musk expected would get sent to the media. The plan backfired when general counsel Craig Harding forwarded his own personalized copy of the memo along with a new, stricter nondisclosure agreement mentioned in the memo to other employees nullifying the entrapment plan.
On May 26, 2009, former Tesla CEO Martin Eberhard filed suit in San Mateo County, California against Tesla and Elon Musk (Chairman and CEO of Tesla) for slander, libel and breach of contract. The case hinged on the question of who could rightly be called a "founder" of Tesla. On July 29, 2009, a judge in San Mateo County, Calif., Superior Court struck down a claim by Eberhard, who asked to be declared one of only two founders of the company. Tesla said in a statement that the ruling is "consistent with Tesla’s belief in a team of founders, including the company’s current CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk, and Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel, who were both fundamental to the creation of Tesla from inception." In early August, Eberhard withdrew the case,, and the parties reached a final settlement September 21. The terms of the settlement are confidential, but the agreement includes a provision that the parties will consider Martin Eberhard, Elon Musk, JB Straubel, Marc Tarpenning, and Ian Wright to be the five co-founders.
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- The Musk Foundation web site
- Elon's ex-wife Justine Musk
- Viral Marketing, MBAs and pesky governments, Elon talks at Stanford (October 8, 2003)
- Statement of Elon Musk at House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearings on the Future Market for Commercial Space (April 20, 2005)
- Gimien, Mark (August 17, 1999). "Fast Track". Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/1999/08/17/elon_musk/index.html.
- Hoffman, Carl (June 2007). "Elon Musk Is Betting His Fortune on a Mission Beyond Earth's Orbit". Wired Magazine. http://www.wired.com/science/space/magazine/15-06/ff_space_musk.
- Carlson, Nicholas (February 19, 2008). "Elon Musk's Tesla caught on video smoking Scoble and Calacanis". Valleywag. http://valleywag.com/358015/elon-musks-tesla-caught-on-video-smoking-scoble-and-calacanis.
- Kanellos, Michael (February 15, 2008). "Elon Musk on rockets, sports cars, and solar power". CNET News.com. http://news.cnet.com/Elon-Musk-on-rockets%2C-sports-cars%2C-and-solar-power/2008-11389_3-6230661.html.
- Chafkin, Max (December 2007). "Entrepreneur of the Year: Elon Musk". Inc. Magazine. http://www.inc.com/magazine/20071201/entrepreneur-of-the-year-elon-musk.html.
- "An interview with Elon Musk". HobbySpace. August 5, 2003. http://www.hobbyspace.com/AAdmin/archive/Interviews/Systems/ElonMusk.html.
- "Lift off with Elon Musk". Carte Blanche. September 4, 2005. http://www.carteblanche.co.za/Display/Display.asp?Id=2879.
- Bergin, Chris (January 20, 2006). "SpaceX’s Musk and Thompson Q and A". nasaspaceflight.com. http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2006/01/spacexs-musk-and-thompson-q-and-a/.
- Video interview of Elon Musk by Zadi Diaz of EPIC FU, weekly web show that covers online pop culture (June 17, 2008)
- "Forget the bungalow, retire to Mars". Sunday Times. January 4, 2009. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/men/article5433496.ece.
- "Uber Entrepreneur: An Evening with Elon Musk" video at the Churchill Club via FORA.TV (January 4, 2009)