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Say no more than 5 publications.

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    $\begingroup$ I was told that Riemann barely published any. At least he has only ever released one paper in number theory which is only 10 pages but tremendously important paper. $\endgroup$ – Jack Yoon Jul 14 '14 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ evariste galois? $\endgroup$ – David Holden Jul 14 '14 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ Carl Gauss actually did not publish much either - "few but ripe" as he himself put it. $\endgroup$ – rehband Jul 14 '14 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ This edition of the collected works of Bernhard Riemann is 675 pages long. Wikipedia claims “Galois's collected works amount to only some 60 pages.” $\endgroup$ – MJD Jul 14 '14 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Ramanujan did not publish much despite having lots of notes. Newton was reluctant to publish and had to be convinced by Halley. According to legend he was even reluctant to speak. Being a member of the Royal Society in 20 years he never uttered a word at any meeting except to ask about opening a window. $\endgroup$ – bobbym Jul 14 '14 at 16:17
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Speaking of great mathematicians, I must name Harish Chandra (11 October 1923 – 16 October 1983). Well, he had more than 5 publications. but at most one or two per year. This Indian American mathematician worked on Lie groups.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


I must add Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman (13 June 1966 – ) to this answer. This Russian mathematician has made landmark contributions to Riemannian geometry and geometric topology. Mostly famous for his work on Poincaré conjecture, this man was nominated for the Fields Medal in 2006, but declined to accept the award. This list shows an incomplete list of publications so far (but remember, he crossed 40 years!) - see 900 sit-ups a day's comment.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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    $\begingroup$ It may be interesting to know that, Paul Erdős, the Hungarian mathematician (26 March 1913 – 20 September 1996), wrote around 1,525 mathematical articles, having 511 different collaborators - maximum among mathematicians so far. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Erd%C5%91s . $\endgroup$ – xxx--- Jul 20 '14 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ If you're going to nominate Christian Goldbach, I can do one better: John Pell, the namesake of Pell's equation, has not one but zero remarkable contributions. $\endgroup$ – MJD Jul 20 '14 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ @MJD I can feel the sass emanating from this comment. You are, however, correct. $\endgroup$ – qwr Jul 20 '14 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ The list of Perelman's publications in Wikipedia article is not complete. MathSciNet lists $16$ publications (and this does not include his preprints that exist on arXiv only, but are nonetheless publicly accessible). $\endgroup$ – user147263 Jul 28 '14 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ @pushpen.paul My suggestion is that Christian Goldbach is not a significant mathematician, and that it is trivial (and not an answer to the question) to find examples of nonmathematicians who have no mathematical publications. $\endgroup$ – MJD Jul 28 '14 at 1:44
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It seems that Evariste Galois has published 5 papers before he died at 20. See here.

For sure he is well known so he should satisfy your request.

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If ancient (but not so much) mathematicians are allowed, I propose

Maria Gaetana Agnesi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Gaetana_Agnesi

as far as I can check, she published three manuscript.

  • Oratio qua ostenditur artium liberalium studia a femineo sexu neutiqua abhorrere, Milano, In Curia Regia, 1727

  • Propositiones philosophicae, Milano, In Curia Regia, 1738

  • Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana, Milano, Nella Regia-ducal Corte,1748

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Yutaka Taniyama has only 5 papers in Math Reviews (and one of those was published 50 years after his death). He is the Taniyama of the Taniyama-Shimura-Weil conjecture, now known as the Modularity Theorem, which played a major role in the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem (now known as the Wiles-Taylor Theorem).

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Depends on what you mean by great:

Urysohn has his lemma but I doubt he published much since he died really young.

As mentioned in the comments: Galois, Gauss etc (But if five is your criteria then Gauss will not count since he published different proofs of the fundamental theorem)

Probably Eisenstein of Eisenstein's criterion as he also died very young (He was Gauss's student and Gauss thought very highly of him).

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Among Fields Medals, you have for instance Ngo Bau Chau who published about 15 articles up to his award, showing that it is not so far relevant to look at the number of publications.

Asking for if there are some with very weak H/G-index of publications would be an interesting question too... probably even more.

For more historical exemples beyond those already cited, there should be a lot, for institutional papers only emerged at the beginning of century XIX, and for long there weren't as much as in our recent times : mathematician without much credit or defending very original works did not succeed in publish :

  • Cantor probably never would had published a lot without the backing of Mittag-Leffler
  • Grassmann (with his original extension theory)

And, of course, Galois was far too young when he died for having published lots of things.

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Wolfgang Doeblin. I'm not sure whether he had any publications at all during his lifetime, but 60 years after he died someone got around to looking at some notes he had written and found Doeblin "was ahead of his time in the development of the theory of Markov processes. In recognition of his results, Itō's lemma is now occasionally referred to as the Itō–Doeblin Theorem."

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1
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Moses Schönfinkel published a total of two papers. Still widely known as the father of combinatory logic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Sch%C3%B6nfinkel

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James Howard Redfield just seems to have published three papers, hence is name is associated with the Polya-Redfield enumeration theorem.

Jacques Herbrand: I am not quite sure about the total of his publications, but as far as I know he has one important one in logic, and one in algebra.

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