SCIENCE / MATHEMATICS
List: Top Ten Greatest Equations Ever
Date: October 2004
Source: Critical Point: Physics World magazine readers poll
Base: From a total of 120 responses to Robert P Crease who asked readers of Physics World magazine to send him their shortlists of great equations. He also asked them to explain why their nominations belonged on the list and why, if at all, the topic matters.
Notes: Readers proposed about 50 different equations, ranging from obvious classics to "overlooked" candidates, personal favourites and equations invented by the respondents themselves. For a discussion of the equations and results for the top twenty please click on the link above. Robert P Crease works in the Department of Philosophy, State University of New York at Stony Brook, and is an historian at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Rank

Equation

1

Maxwell's four equations describing how an electromagnetic field varies in space and time.

2

Euler's
equation of momentumflow and forcedensity in fluid dynamics.

3

Newton's Second Law (F=ma)  'The rate
of change of momentum of a body is equal to the resultant force acting on the
body and is in the same direction'.

4

Pythagoras's
Theorum (a²+b²=c²)  In any right triangle, the area of the square whose
side is the hypotenuse (the side of a right triangle opposite the right
angle) is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares on the other two
sides.

5

Schrödinger's
equation describing the timedependence of quantum mechanical systems.

6

Boltzmann
equation describing the statistical distribution of particles in a fluid.

7

Principle
of Least Action (or Principle of stationary action)

8

De
Broglie's equation  showing that the wavelength is inversely proportional to
the momentum of a particle and that the frequency is directly proportional to
the particle's kinetic energy

9

Fourier
Transformation  an integral transform that reexpresses a function in terms
of sinusoidal basis functions.

10

Einstein's
field equations for General Relativity

