Sad life of Evariste Galois

Evariste Galois was a brilliantly original French mathematician. Born shortly before Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia, he died shortly before the ill-fated uprising in Paris. His last words: ‘Don’t cry, I need all my courage to die at 20’.

Galois grew up in a time and place confused and excited by revolution. He was known to say ‘if I were only sure that a body would be enough to incite the people to revolt, I would offer mine’. On May 2 1832, after frustration over failure in love and failure to convince the Paris math establishment of the depth of his ideas, he made his decision. A duel was arranged with a friend, but only his friend’s gun would be loaded. Galois died the day after a bullet perforated his intestine. At his funeral it was discovered that a famous general had also just died, and the revolutionaries decided to use the general’s death rather than Galois’ as a pretext for an armed uprising. A few days later the streets of Paris were blocked by barricades, but not because of Galois’ sacrifice: his death had been pointless.

from “Monstrous Moonshine and the Classification of CFT”.

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