**Alexandre-Theophile Vandermonde** was a French mathematician best known for his work on determinants.

- It was Fontaine des Bertins whose enthusiasm for mathematics rubbed off on Vandermonde.
- Vandermonde's election to the Académie des Sciences did motivate him to work hard for the Academy and to publish other works on science and music.
- In 1778 Vandermonde presented the first of a two part work on the theory of music to the Académie des Sciences.
- Positions which Vandermonde held include director of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in 1782 and chief of the Bureau de l'Habillement des Armées in 1792.
- Like Monge, Vandermonde was a strong supporter of the Revolution which began with the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789.
- Perhaps the name of Vandermonde is best known today for the Vandermonde determinant.
- Vandermonde's four mathematical papers, with their dates of publication by the Académie des Sciences, were Mémoire sur la résolution des équations Ⓣ(Memoir on solving equations) (1771), Remarques sur des problèmes de situation Ⓣ(Notes on problems of location) (1771), Mémoire sur des irrationnelles de différents ordres avec une application au cercle Ⓣ(Memoir on various irrational orders with an application to the circle) (1772), and Mémoire sur l'élimination Ⓣ(Memoir on elimination) (1772).
- Vandermonde's real and unrecognised claim to fame was lodged in his first paper, in which he approached the general problem of the solubility of algebraic equations through a study of functions invariant under permutations of the roots of the equation.
- Kronecker claimed in 1888 that the study of modern algebra began with this first paper of Vandermonde.
- Cauchy states quite clearly that Vandermonde had priority over Lagrange for this remarkable idea which eventually led to the study of group theory.
- In his second paper Vandermonde considered the problem of the knight's tour on the chess board.
- Vandermonde considers the intertwining of the curves generated by the moving knight and his work in this area marks the beginning of ideas which would be extended first by Gauss and then by Maxwell in the context of electrical circuits.
- In his third paper Vandermonde studied combinatorial ideas.
- The reason for this strong claim by Muir is that, although mathematicians such as Leibniz had studied determinants earlier than Vandermonde, all earlier work had simply used the determinant as a tool to solve linear equations.
- Vandermonde, however, thought of the determinant as a function and gave properties of the determinant function.

Born 28 February 1735, Paris, France. Died 1 January 1796, Paris, France.

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Algebra, Puzzles And Problems

**O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F**: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive