**Georg Cantor**

**Born:**March 3, 1845, St. Petersburg, Russia

**Died:**January 6, 1918, Halle, Germany

Cantor's
full name was Georg
Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor. Of all the great mathematicians, Cantor most perfectly fulfills
the (Hollywood) stereotype that a genius for mathematics and mental illness are
somehow inextricable. Cantor's most brilliant insight was to develop a way to
talk about mathematical infinity. He developed the famous concept of set theory
between 1874 and 1884. His set theory has become a fundamental theory in
mathematics. The result was
mind-blowing.

Prior to Cantor's work, the concept of a set was a rather
elementary one that had been used implicitly. No one had realized that
set theory had any nontrivial content. Before Cantor, there were only finite
sets (which are easy to understand). By proving that there are (infinitely)
many possible sizes for infinite sets, Cantor established that set theory was
not trivial, and it needed to be studied.

Set theory has come to
play the role of a foundational theory in modern mathematics, in the sense that it
interprets propositions about mathematical objects (for example, numbers and
functions) from all the traditional areas of mathematics. The basic concepts
of set theory are now used throughout mathematics.

Cantor's first ten papers were on number theory. He solved the uniqueness of the representation of a function by trigonometric series. Cantor solved this problem in 1869. While working on this problem, he discovered transfinite ordinals, which occurred as indices n in the nth derived set Sn of a set of zeroes of trigonometric series.

Unfortunately, on 6th January 1918, he had a fatal heart attach and could not survive his life. He also became
fixated on proving that the works of Shakespeare were in fact written by
Francis Bacon.