A Mathematician’s Apology by G. H. Hardy

By G. H. Hardy

G. H. Hardy was once certainly one of this century's most interesting mathematical thinkers, well known between his contemporaries as a 'real mathematician ... the purest of the pure'. He used to be additionally, as C. P. Snow recounts in his Foreword, 'unorthodox, eccentric, radical, able to discuss anything'. This 'apology', written in 1940, deals a super and interesting account of arithmetic as greatly greater than a technology; whilst it was once first released, Graham Greene hailed it along Henry James's notebooks as 'the top account of what it was once wish to be an artistic artist'. C. P. Snow's Foreword provides sympathetic and witty insights into Hardy's lifestyles, with its wealthy shop of anecdotes touching on his collaboration with the intense Indian mathematician Ramanujan, his idiosyncrasies, and his ardour for cricket. this can be a precise account of the fascination of arithmetic and of 1 of its such a lot compelling exponents nowa days.

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Suppose now that a violent dynamo, or a massive gravitating body, is introduced into the room. Then the physicists tell us that the geometry of the room is changed, its whole physical pattern slightly but definitely distorted. Do the theorems which I have proved become false? Surely it would be nonsense to suppose that the proofs of them which I have given are affected in any way. It would be like supposing that a play of Shakespeare is changed when a reader spills his tea over a page. The play is independent of the pages on which it is printed, and ‘pure geometries’ are independent of lecture rooms, or of any other detail of the physical world.

I am sure that Gauss’s saying (if indeed it be his) has been rather crudely misinterpreted. If the theory of numbers could be employed for any practical and obviously honourable purpose, if it could be turned directly to the furtherance of human happiness or the relief of human suffering, as physiology and even chemistry can, then surely neither Gauss nor any other mathematician would have been so foolish as to decry or regret such applications. But science works for evil as well as for good (and particularly, of course, in time of war); and both Gauss and less mathematicians may be justified in rejoicing that there is one science at any rate, and that their own, whose very remoteness from ordinary human activities should keep it gentle and clean.

There are two heroes, a primary hero called Flowers, who is almost wholly good, and a secondary hero, a much weaker vessel, called Brown. Flowers and Brown find many dangers in university life, but the worst is a gambling saloon in Chesterton21 run by the Misses Bellenden, two fascinating but extremely wicked young ladies. Flowers survives all these troubles, is Second Wrangler and Senior 20 21 ‘Alan St Aubyn’ was Mrs Frances Marshall, wife of Matthew Marshall. Actually, Chesterton lacks picturesque features.

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