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Basel problem

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The Basel problem is a problem in mathematical analysis with relevance to number theory, concerning an infinite sum of inverse squares. It was first posed by Pietro Mengoli in 1650 and solved by Leonhard Euler in 1734, and read on 5 December 1735 in The Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Since the problem had withstood the attacks of the leading mathematicians of the day, Euler's solution brought him immediate fame when he was twenty-eight. Euler generalised the problem considerably, and his ideas were taken up more than a century later by Bernhard Riemann in his seminal 1859 paper "On the Number of Primes Less Than a Given Magnitude", in which he defined his zeta function and proved its basic properties. The problem is named after Basel, hometown of Euler as well as of the Bernoulli family who unsuccessfully attacked the problem.

Image: Limit circle Fb N

Pietro Mengoli

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Pietro Mengoli was an Italian mathematician and clergyman from Bologna, where he studied with Bonaventura Cavalieri at the University of Bologna, and succeeded him in 1647. He remained as professor there for the next 39 years of his life.

Title-page from Novae quadraturae arithmeticae, by Pietro Mengoli. 1650.