In fact, Nicolas Bourbaki wasn't a mathematician. He was a conspiracy.
I'm not a mathematician, but I'm interested in math. And I'm not paranoid, but I'm partial to my share of conspiracies (and I don't care if they are watching me!) So that makes him my kind of historical figure and, apart from Newton, Nicolas Bourbaki stands as my favorite math guy.
He was invented in the 1930's by five students who wanted to rewrite the standard math text under the cloak of secrecy! [Insert the sound of the Twilight Zone here]. They operated for years, publishing under a pseudonym and adopted persona. They were highly exclusive and had rigorous standards for their approach to their work. They recruited in secrecy. The academic community assumed that there was some brilliant, quirky recluse operating in his own bubble and cranking out brilliant work. Turns out there were a bunch of brilliant, quirky recluses operating in a bubble. The ruse eventually ran its course and the final Bourbaki publication was in 1983.
The story is much better told at Planet Math.
Because this appeals to me on so many levels, I fashioned Sir Robin Louis Baack*, the antagonist in my novel "A Body at Rest", after Nicolas Bourbaki*. In the novel, Sir Robin is the head of an academic secret society bent on destroying Cambridge University. Oh man, there's going to be some trouble coming from the House of Baack. Big trouble.
The Fine Print
*Twelve bonus points to you if you figured out that these two are anagrams (leaving out the "sir"). No, wait. I'm just giving ten bonus points. I mean, come on! They have all the same letters in their names, just rearranged...Hey now! Don't get snippy with me. I'll knock it down to 8 points. I will.**
**I mean it.