The son of Johann Bernoulli. He was born in Basel on the 6th February 1695 but died young of a gastric ulcer in 1726.

In some references he is referred to as Nikolaus (III) under a classification that refers to the brother of Jakob and Johann as Nikolaus (1) and the son of Nikolaus (I) as Nikolaus(II).

More commonly, only the current Nikolaus and his cousin are considered as mathematicians, and his cousin is only classed as Nikolaus (I) by virtue of a seniority of age of a mere eight years. This is yet more confusing given that Nikolaus (II) is normally considered to be the more prominent mathematician of the two (the two worked in similar areas).

He was the older brother of Daniel, whom he taught mathematics in the early days.

He entered Basel University when 13 years old, studying mathematics and law. In 1711 he received his Masters (Magister) in philosophy and in 1715 he became a licentiate in jurisprudence.

From 1716-17 he supported himself as a tutor in Venice and until 1719 he held the chair of mathematics at Padua University, which was taken over by Giovanni Poleni.

He was an assistant to his father in the exchanges around the Leibniz-Newton priority dispute, and he drafted his father's reply to Brook Taylor.

In 1720, he posed the problem of the reciprocal orthogonal trajectory, which was conceived as a challenge to supporters of Newton.

From 1723 he was professor of law at the Bern Oberschule.

In 1725 he and his brother Daniel travelled, on the request of Peter the Great (so-called), to the newly-founded Academy of St. Petersburg. There is a story that the Academy were unaware that there was more than one Bernoulli engaged in Maths and to resolve the confusion, the director Blumentrost engaged both anyway.

In Petersburg he discoursed with Daniel over what came to be known as the St Petersburg Paradox - in probability, on which his brother wrote several treatises. Today we can experiment with this paradox as Buffon's Needle, using computers.

Eight months after his arrival, he took ill of fever and died. The Empress paid for his funeral costs.

In 1727, his professorship was taken over by Leonhard Euler, who had been recommended by the Bernoullis.

Specialist in mechanics


 
 
 
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