Carl Friederich Gauss Prize
for Applications of Mathematics
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Interpretation of the Gauss Prize Medal



Soon after Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the celestial body Ceres on January 1st, 1801, Ceres disappeared from view, and there were no reliable techniques available to predict its orbit from Piazzi's limited observational data. Introducing a revolutionary new idea, the now well-known least squares method, Carl Friedrich Gauss was able to calculate Ceres' orbit in a very precise way, and in December 1801 Ceres was rediscovered by the astronomer Zack very close to the predicted position.

This impressive example illustrating the power of the applications of mathematics provided the general idea for the design of this medal.

Dissolved into a linear pattern, the Gauss effigy is incomplete. It is the viewer's eye which completes the barcode of lines and transforms it into the portrait of Gauss.

A similar pattern, accomplished by horizontal lines, is one of the features on the back of the medal. This grid is crossed by a curve. The disk and the square, two elements connected by the curve, symbolize both the least squares method and the discovery of Ceres' orbit.

The mathematical language has been reduced to its most fundamental elements, such as point, line and curve. Moreover, these elements represent natural processes. The imagery of the medal is a synthesis of nature's and mathematics' sign language.

Jan Arnold

last updated: 2011-10-17