I had a conversation with a friend today about Voltaire and the court of Frederick the Great. I thought to bring up Euler--who was at one point at Frederick's court--and of whom Voltaire in particular had a quite nasty opinion. My friend is quite intelligent, but he's a literature teacher with almost no knowledge of mathematics and he had never heard of Euler. I tried to put Euler into perspective by saying "Euler is to mathematics what Shakespeare is to English literature." Perhaps you don't agree, but it's what came to me on the spot. I also tried to articulate to some degree Euler's influence on science and mathematics but...he has a huge corpus of work and I don't think I got my point across that well.

How would you explain the significance of Euler to somebody like my friend, the intelligent literature teacher? Do you know of any good books, lectures, or papers that really get his significance across for a general audience? For example, I enjoyed the book "Euler: the master of us all" by Dunham, but I think it would be way too technical for a literature teacher.

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    $\begingroup$ Hopefully this doesn't get closed and you get a good answer, but if you don't, you can always try posting here: hsm.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ – Yorch Jul 22 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Yorch Thanks! I didn't know about that SE :-) I think I'll leave this here for a little bit and then repost on HSM if there's no good answers in a day or two. $\endgroup$ – JMJ Jul 22 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ One thing that comes to mind is the fact that any engineer, physicist, mathematician, biologist, chemist, or high school student will be familiar with Euler's constant. You could also show him this page (lol) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_things_named_after_Leonhard_Euler $\endgroup$ – Elliot G Jul 22 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ The article referenced in Elliot G's comment mentions Euler's formula, $e^{i\theta} = [\cos(\theta) + i\sin(\theta)]$ which I regard as extremely convenient syntactic sugar, since it extends the Real Analysis law of exponents [i.e. $a^b \times a^c = a^{(b + c)}$] into the realm of Complex Analysis [i.e. $e^{i\theta_1} \times e^{i\theta_2} = e^{i(\theta_1 + \theta_2)}$]. I think that this syntactic sugar facilitates solving Complex Analysis problems. $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Jul 22 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ Send these google search URL's to your friend: google search (28.6 million hits) and google books search and google scholar search (over 1 million hits). Of course, these search results will include those by other people with the name "Euler", but those other search results will be an extremely small percentage of the total number of search results. $\endgroup$ – Dave L. Renfro Jul 22 at 6:42

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