Majestic Modesty (Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss)
Twilight and slovenliness reigned in a small study of the owner of the printing manufactory. Weak rays of the autumn sun hardly made it through the dense curtains on the windows of the room and revealed quite extensive deposits of dust in the air and on the objects. Everywhere one could see random piles of manuscripts, books, newspapers, printing forms and vessels with samples of paint.
However, not the depressing atmosphere of the study was unusual, but the strange oppressive silence which somehow flooded the room despite the presence of two persons.
- You hesitate once again and foolishly waste time on the groundless reflections! It is unbelievable! The world-famous genius doubts the importance of his new discovery for the science and perfection of its description on paper again! – The stout middle-aged man with the beard broke the silence with the puzzled exclamation, addressing Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss. – It’s hard to believe, but we’ve known each other since 1801, when "Disquisitiones Arithmeticae" was published, your first comprehensive work! Because of you, back then it took three years to prepare the book for printing – inexcusably long! And now, after decades of rich experience for some reason you still continue to slow down the publication of the finished manuscripts! All because of some unreasonable illusions and fears!
- Gerhard, my dear friend. I cannot allow publication of the scientific work, which I tend to consider unfinished or ill-considered. – Mr. Gauss thoughtfully stood up from the carved chair with the red velvet upholstery and took several hesitant steps towards his interlocutor. – It is not that I am afraid to disgrace myself. Mathematics is a very large-scale science which currently undergoes the stage of rapid development. And for me it would be horrible to mislead my colleagues with some possible mistakes or even worse – to accidentally duplicate discoveries and conclusions made by others! I have to be absolutely sure about the originality and validity of my statements!
- You probably meant "perfectness" of your statements! – The bearded man was indignant once again. He jumped out of the leather chair standing at a massive desk unexpectedly rapidly. – There is nothing absolutely perfect! But there can be something else. Let me remind you… You are the author of works which have been recognized as masterpieces after publication. I am not only talking about "Disquisitiones Arithmeticae", but also about "Explanations at to the possibility of building a Heptadecagon", "Works on the theory of numbers", "General Investigations of Curved Surfaces", "On one new general law of mechanics", "Abhandlungen zur Methode der kleinsten Quadrate", "Allgemeine Lehrsätze in Beziehung auf die im verkehrten Verhältnis des Quadrats der Entfernung wirkenden Anziehungs - und Abstoßungskräfte", "The selected works on geodesy", "Studies of optics", "Dioptric studies"…
- Well, indeed, a lot of my books have been published already. To be honest, some of them were presented to the community a bit too early, as there still was a lot to be done about them… - Mr. Gauss timidly interrupted his friend and smiled cunningly. – But anyway thank you for remembering the majority of them.
- How could I forget them? It was I who published almost all of your works! – Gerhard has once again exclaimed and looked at Mr. Gauss with irritation. – But I was not talking about that at all! Of course, I am no scientist, although I have also learned some scientific stuff while talking to you. But I believe that you are greatest mathematician, engineer, physicist, astronomer and geodesist in the whole world! And how many of your discoveries have not been shown to the public because you’d refused to publish them?! Oh, I will recall these difficult terms: "Non-Euclidean geometry", "Elliptic functions", "Elements of the quaternions theory", "Least-squares method", "Law of distribution of prime numbers"! Who is the real author of these and some other discoveries? Carl Gauss and nobody else! But you hesitated to publish them and finally they have glorified other scientists like Lobachevsky, Bolyai, Jacobi, Abel, Hamilton, Legendre! And what about the fully operating model of the electric telegraph invented by you? The one you have assembled together with Weber. Not too many people know about it!
- Well, this your personal opinion, dear Gerhard, and personally cannot agree with it! – Mr. Gauss answered with disapproval. – All discoveries are made and become known in a precisely right moment! And scientists who deserve it the most become their authors!
- Forgive me, dear Carl, but this is the most foolish idea I have ever heard! And I feel incredibly sad to know that your unhealthy modesty deprives you of a considerable part of well-deserved recognition! - Gerhard objected aggressively. – Even Napoleon agreed with me back in 1807, when he ordered his troops to keep Göttingen safe under the occupation only due to the world famous name of Gauss and your scientific achievements.
- Can't object to that! – Mr. Gauss smiled for the first time. – Napoleon has highly appreciated my achievements in the field of mathematics! For this reason, after the city was taken, an unreasonably huge contribution of 2000 francs was requested from me!