Anecdotes of Mathematicians

Paul Erdos was once told that a friend of his had shot and killed his wife. Without blinking an eye, Erdos said, “Well, she was probably interrupting him when he was trying to prove a theorem”

Topologist Bob McDowell of Washington university has a theory that cancer causes smoking.

One day Jacob Bronowski phoned up John von Neumann in the middle of the night to admit that von Neumann had been correct the day before in some discussions they had been having. The great von Neumann’s grumpy reply was, “Call me only when I am wrong.”

A student of Plato once asked the great master, “What practical use do these theorems serve? What is to be gained from them?”

Plato’s answer was immediate and peremptory. He turned to one of his slaves and said,”Give this young man an obol (a small Greek coin) that he may feel that he has gained something from my teachings. Then expel him.”

H.H.Wu of U.C.Berkely tells that on the wall of a New York city subway station was scribble this message: “I have just found a truly marvelous proof of Fermat’s Last theorem. But the train is coming and I don’t have time to write it down”

Ken Rosen is a most successful textbook author. he has penned, for instance the best-selling undergraduate discrete math book and best-selling undergraduate number theory book. One of Ken’s text is used in Kuwait. He received a letter from the Kuwaits protesting a feature of his book.

For, in illustrating ideas of logic, he has the sentences

If 1 + 1 = 3 then God does not exist
If 2 + 2 = 4 the pigs can fly.

The Kuwaitis felt that first sentence was sacrilegious and second affiliated the unclean pig with God.

(Extracts form wonderful book by Steven G. Krantz, Apocrypha Redux)

Long time I had posted one more post on Paul Erdos here. Extract from the same.

The Riemann Hypothesis is one of the problem of the millennium that is yet to be cracked.

Paul Erdos once said all babies (he used to call them epsilons, because babies are really small!) remeber the solution for Riemann Hypothesis. The only problem though is that they tend to forget everything once they reach the age of six month.

Recently SirSivan turned six month and I was lamenting to my wife that, SriSivan would have forgotten the precious solution for Riemann Hypothesis but I wish to believe that he is an exception and indeed he still remembers the solution for Riemann hypothesis.


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