Iraqi teen Mohamed Altoumaimi solves 300-year-old Bernoulli maths puzzle

May 30th, 2009 - 7:17 pm ICT by John Le Fevre  

A 16-year-old Iraqi student living in Sweden has solved a math puzzle that has confounded mathematicians for over 300 years.

Mohamed Altoumaimi, who migrated to Sweden six years ago, spent four months and countless hours devising a formula that explains and simplifies the so-called Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of calculations named after 17th century Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli.

The Bernoulli numbers were introduced by Jakob Bernoulli in the book Ars Conjectandi published posthumously in 1713, though it is thought they may have been discovered independently in Japan many years earlier by Seki Kōwa.

When Altoumaimi presented his work to teachers at his high school in Falun, central Sweden, he said. “none of them thought the formula I had written down really worked.”

He then got in touch with professors at Uppsala University, one of Sweden’s top institutions, to ask them to check his work.

After going through his notebooks, the professors found his work was indeed correct and offered him a place in Uppsala.

For now, Altoumaimi is focusing on his school studies and plans to take summer classes in advanced mathematics and physics this year.

I wanted to be a researcher in physics or mathematics. I really like those subjects. But I have to improve in English and social sciences,” he said.

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