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Topic: [HM] Clifford A. Truesdell, 1919--2000
Replies: 1   Last Post: Aug 13, 2000 11:24 AM

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Alfred Ross

Posts: 56
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: [HM] Clifford A. Truesdell, 1919--2000
Posted: Aug 13, 2000 11:24 AM
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Clifford Ambrose Truesdell, III (February 18, 1919---January 14, 2000)


Truesdell's resume, and some selected quotations from Truesdell's writings
can be found at Jon Doyle's Gallery

http://www.medg.lcs.mit.edu/doyle/gallery/


For instance, the following provocative quotation from "Reactions of
Late Baroque Mechanics to Success, Conjecture, Error, and Failure in
Newton's Principia" (p.140) has been selected:

"Now a mathematician has a matchless advantage over general
scientists, historians, politicians, and exponents of other
professions: He can be wrong. A fortiori, he can also be right.
[...] A mistake made by a mathematician, even a great one,
is not a "difference of a point of view" or "another
interpretation of the data" or a "dictate of a conflicting
ideology", it is a mistake. The greatest of all mathematicians,
those who have discovered the greatest quantities of mathematical
truths, are also those who have published the greatest numbers of
lacunary proofs, insufficiently qualified assertions, and flat
mistakes. By attempting to make natural philosophy into a part of
mathematics, Newton relinquished the diplomatic immunity granted
to non-mathematical philosophers, chemists, psychologists, etc.,
and entered into the area where an error is an error even if it
is Newton's error; in fact, all the more so because it is Newton's
error.
The mistakes made by a great mathematician are of two kinds:
first, trivial slips that anyone can correct, and, second, titanic
failures reflecting the scale of the struggle which the great
mathematician waged. Failures of this latter kind are often as
important as successes, for they give rise to major discoveries
by other mathematicians. One error of a great mathematician has
often done more for science than a hundred impeccable little
theorems proved by lesser men. Since Newton was as great
mathematician as ever lived, but still a mathematician, we may
approach his work with the level, tactless criticism which
mathematics demands."

Reference: http://www.medg.lcs.mit.edu/doyle/gallery/truesdell/






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