My Thoughts & Views

Tribute to Hero’s: G. H. Hardy

Posted on: February 7, 2009

Today is the birth centenary of G.H.Hardy, great English Mathematician.Hardy is most famous outside of mathematics for his “A Mathematician’s Apology”. book . The book, talks among other things about how mathematics is young man’s game. He is also known for his association with Ramanujan and for being the person responsible for bringing him to Cambridge where his greatest mathematics unfolded.

Some quotes:

1. Asked if he believes in one God, a mathematician answered: “Yes, up to isomorphism”.
2. “I have never done anything ‘useful’. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world.”

Wikipedia :

It is never worth a first class man’s time to express a majority opinion. By definition, there are plenty of others to do that.

A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.

Quoting one of the mathematicians, C Snow, that Hardy worked with:

A mathematicians apology is, if read with the textual attention it deserves, a book of haunting sadness. Yes, it is witty and sharp with intellectual high spirits: yes, the crystalline clarity and candor are still there: yes, it is the testament of a creative artist. But it is also, in an understated stoical fashion, a passionate lament for creative powers that used to be and that will never come again. I know nothing like it in the language: partly because most people with the literary gift to express such a lament don’t come to feel it: it is very rare for a writer to realize, with the finality of truth, that he is absolutely finished.

Hardy was a sort of purist mathematician, one who did his mathematics not for the sake of its applicability to anything, but for the sake of doing great mathematics. Hardy, along with Littlewood and Ramanujan, is also mentioned in Apostolos Doxiadis’ “Uncle Petros and the Goldbach Conjecture”. The link above gives a short summary on his life.


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