Encyclopedia of Continuum Mechanics

Living Edition
| Editors: Holm Altenbach, Andreas Öchsner

Bernoulli, Jakob I

  • Holm AltenbachEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-53605-6_287-1

Jakob I Bernoulli (December 27th, jul., 1654/January (6th, greg.), 1655 in Basel, Switzerland; †August 16th, 1705 in Basel, Switzerland) was one of the prominent mathematician in the Bernoulli family and the uncle of Daniel Bernoulli.

Jakob I Bernoulli

Early Years and Education

Jakob I Bernoulli followed his father’s wish, he studied theology and entered the ministry. In addition, he studied mathematics and astronomy. He traveled throughout Europe from 1676 to 1682, learning about the latest discoveries in mathematics and the sciences under leading figures of the time. This included the work of Johannes Hudde, Robert Boyle, and Robert Hooke. In 1676 in obtained a doctoral degree in Basel, in 1684 the habilitation.

Professional Carrier and Achievments

Bernoulli returned to Switzerland and began teaching mechanics at the University in Basel from 1683. His travels allowed him to establish correspondence with many leading mathematicians of his era. During this time, he studied the new discoveries in mathematics, including Christiaan Huygens’s De ratiociniis in aleae ludo, Descartes’ Geometrie and Frans van Schooten’s supplements of it. He also studied Isaac Barrow and John Wallis, leading to his interest in infinitesimal geometry.

He was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Basel in 1687, remaining in this position for the rest of his life. By that time, he had begun tutoring his brother Johann Bernoulli on mathematical topics. The two brothers began to study the calculus as presented by Leibniz in his 1684 paper on the differential calculus in “Nova Methodus pro Maximis et Minimis”. The Bernoullis were among the first to try to understand and apply Leibniz’s theories.

Jakob collaborated with his brother on various applications of calculus. However, the atmosphere of collaboration between the two brothers turned into rivalry as Johann’s own mathematical genius began to mature, with both of them attacking each other in print, and posing difficult mathematical challenges to test each other’s skills. By 1697, the relationship had completely broken down.

In 1683 Bernoulli discovered the constant e by studying a question about compound interest which required him to find the value of the following expression (which is in fact e – the Bernoulli number)
$$\displaystyle \begin{aligned} \lim_{n\to\infty}\left(1 + \frac{1}{n}\right)^n \end{aligned}$$

He was elected in 1699 a foreign member of the French Academy of Sciences and in 1702 of the Prussian Academy of Sciences.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für MechanikOtto-von-Guericke-Universität MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Holm Altenbach
    • 1
  1. 1.Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für MechanikOtto-von-Guericke-Universität MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany