Magnificent mathematicians talk mathematics and, for the sake of balance, a few non-mathematicians’ thoughts too!

“The uniform character of mathematics is the essence of science, for mathematics is the foundation of all exact scientific knowledge.”

David Hilbert, 1862 – 1943

Mathematician

“Geometry is one and eternal shining in the mind of God. That men share in it is among the reasons that Man is the image of God.”

Johannes Kepler, 1571 – 1630

Mathematician and Astronomer

“Mathematics is the language in which the gods speak to people.”

Plato, c. 427 BC – c. 347 BC

Mathematician and Philosopher

“In my experience most mathematicians are intellectually lazy and especially dislike reading experimental papers.”

Francis Crick, 1916 – 2004

Physicist & Molecular Biologist

“The legend that every cipher is breakable is of course absurd, though still widespread among people who should know better.”

J.E. Littlewood, 1885 – 1977

Mathematician

“Surely it is not knowledge, but learning; not owning but earning; not being there, but getting there; that gives us the greatest pleasure.”

Carl Friedrich Gauss, 1777 – 1855

Mathematician and Physicist

“Actually, everything that can be known has a number; for it is impossible to grasp anything with the mind or to recognize it without this.”

Philolaus, c. 470 – c. 385 BC

Scientist and Philosopher

“Euclid’s work ought to have been any educationist’s nightmare… it never offers any “motivations,” it has no illuminating “asides,” it does not attempt to make anything “intuitive,” and it avoids “applications” to a fault. It is so “humorless” in its mathematical purism that… …it should have been spurned by students and “progressive” teachers in every generation. But it nevertheless survived intact all the turmoils, ravages, and illiteracies of the dissolving Roman Empire, of the early Dark Ages, of the Crusades, and of the plagues and famines of the later Middle Ages.”

Salomon Bochner, 1899 – 1982

Mathematician

“There may be babblers, wholly ignorant of mathematics, who dare to condemn my hypothesis, upon the authority of some part of the Bible twisted to suit their purpose. I value them not, and scorn their unfounded judgment.”

Nicolaus Copernicus, 1473 – 1543

Mathematician and Astronomer

“Before the Copernican revolution, it was natural to suppose that God’s purposes were specifically concerned with the earth, but now this has become an unplausible hypothesis. If it is the purpose of the Cosmos to evolve mind, we must regard it as rather incompetent in having produced so little in such a long time.”

Bertrand Russell, 1872 – 1970

Mathematician and Philosopher

“I have eaten 2/3 of 1/3 of my food ration. 7 remains. How much food did I start with?”

Cuneiform

Babylonian mathematics exercise, 1900 – 1600 BC

“I see some parallels between the shifts of fashion in mathematics and in music. In music, the popular new styles of jazz and rock became fashionable a little earlier than the new mathematical styles of chaos and complexity theory. Jazz and rock were long despised by classical musicians, but have emerged as art-forms more accessible than classical music to a wide section of the public. Jazz and rock are no longer to be despised as passing fads. Neither are chaos and complexity theory. But still, classical music and classical mathematics are not dead. Mozart lives, and so does Euler. When the wheel of fashion turns once more, quantum mechanics and hard analysis will once again be in style.”

Freeman Dyson, b. 1923

Mathematician and Physicist

“Simple laws can very well describe complex structures. The miracle is not the complexity of our world, but the simplicity of the equations describing that complexity.”

Sander Bais, b. 1945

Theoretical Physicist

“I am not insensible of the advantage which accrues to Applied Mathematics from the co-operation of the Pure Mathematician, and this co-operation is not infrequently called forth by the very imperfections of writers on Applied Mathematics.”

Ronald Fisher, 1890 – 1962

Mathematician, Statistician, Evolutionary Biologist

“In practical applications we are concerned only with comparatively small numbers; only stellar astronomy and atomic physics deal with ‘large’ numbers, and they have very little more practical importance, as yet, than the most abstract pure mathematics.”

G. H. Hardy, 1877 – 1947

Mathematician

“Geometry, inasmuch as it is concerned with real space, is no longer considered a part of pure mathematics; like mechanics and physics, it belongs among the applications of mathematics.”

Hermann Weyl, 1885 to 1955

Mathematician and Theoretical Physicist

“The ultimate truths of mathematics, then, cannot be established by any experimental proof that the deductions from them are true; since the supposed experimental proof takes them for granted.”

Herbert Spencer, 1885 – 1977

Philospher

“It is a platitude that pure mathematics can have unexpected consequences and affect even daily life.”

J.E. Littlewood, 1885 – 1977

Mathematician

“Pure mathematics exist by themselves; no will produces them, no power can limit them. They are eternal laws that no man can infringe, and from which it is impossible to escape.”

S. Sandaram Iyer, 1883

Philosopher

“Find the number such that if the whole of it is added to one-seventh of it, the result will be nineteen.”

The Ahmes Papyrus

Ancient Egyptian mathematics problem from c. 2200 BC

“The invention of logarithms came to the world as a bolt from the blue. No previous work had led up to it… It stands isolated, breaking in upon human thought abruptly, without borrowing from the work of other intellects or following known lines of mathematical thought.”

John Moulton, 1844 – 1921

Mathematician

“Division is esteemed one of the busiest operations of Arithmetic, and such as requireth a mind not wandering, or settled upon other matters.”

Thomas Hylles, The arte of vulgar arithmeticke, 1600

Mathematician

“The literary convention that numbers less than 10 should be given in words is often highly unsuitable in mathematics… The excessive use of the word forms is regrettably spreading at the present time.”

J.E. Littlewood, 1885 – 1977

Mathematician

“Suppose we have an unknown number of objects. When counted in threes, 2 are left over, when counted in fives, 3 are left over, and when counted in sevens, 2 are left over. How many objects are there?”

Sunzi, The Mathematical Classic of Sunzi

Chinese mathematics problem from c. 450 AD

“What exactly is mathematics? Many have tried but nobody has really succeeded in defining mathematics; it is always something else. Roughly speaking, people know that it deals with numbers, figures, with relations, operations, and that its formal procedures involving axioms, proofs, lemmas, theorems have not changed since the time of Archimedes.”

Stan Ulam, 1909 – 1984

Mathematician

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feline says

“Surely it is not knowledge, but learning; not owning but earning; not being there, but getting there; that gives us the greatest pleasure.”

Seems that Gauss was the greatest philosopher as well as the greatest mathematician.

thabang masilo ratopol says

maths is the division line that bisects homo sapiens into two species: Genius and …..

Curly Judge says

I once read about a famous scientist who started his career as a street urchin but was befriended by a wealthy benefactor who educated and supported him.

His benefactors action was described as an act of altruism which paid huge dividends to humanity.

I have forgotten his name.

Can anyone help?

The Doc says

He’s not an exact match for your description, but possibly Michael Faraday.

Michael says

Ramanujam

Curly Judge says

Thanks for your reply, but I seem to remember that this child was taken from, almost, the gutter.

I’ll keep searching and, if I have any luck, come back to you.

wincislas says

yep its really about learning not knowledge