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  • 9/25/2004

Georg Freiherr von Vega

(23 March 1754 -26 September 1802)

The parents of Jurij Vega (Georg is the German version of his name) were poor farmers, his father dying when Jurij was 6 years old. He attended school in Ljubljana until the age of 19 when he became a navigational engineer. He entered military service in 1780 as professor of mathematics at theArtillery School in Vienna. He was a talented teacher and writer, with a great skill as a calculator.
Vega wrote on artillery but he is best remembered for his tables of logarithms and trigonometric functions. His seven figure log tables were based on those of Vlacq and were famed for their accuracy. The calculations were done with the help of soldiers who were given a gold ducat for every mistake they found. His first book of logarithms appeared in 1783. The tablesThesaurus logarithmorum completus appeared in 1794 and the 90th edition appeared in 1924.
Vega wrote a four volume textbookVorlesungen über die Mathematik (1782, 1784, 1788, and 1800). This book also contains trigonometric tables.
Vega calculated  to 140 places, a record which stood for over 50 years. This appears in a paper which he published in 1789.
As a military man Vega was involved in several wars. In 1788 he fought against the Turks at a battle nearBelgrade commanding gun positions. He also fought against the French at many battles in this time of revolution and wars in Europe.
In September 1802 Jurij Vega was reported missing. A search was unsuccessful until his body was found in theDanube nearVienna. The official cause of death was an accident but many suspect that he was murdered.

Article by:

J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

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