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Topic: [HM] Quotations from Godel
Replies: 21   Last Post: May 5, 2005 5:23 PM

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James A Landau

Posts: 217
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: [HM] "Pure Mathematics" Quote
Posted: Oct 6, 2004 8:13 AM
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In a message dated Tue, 5 Oct 2004 16:48:14 -0400 (EDT), Fred Shapiro
<fred.shapiro@yale.edu> asks:
>
> Can anyone help me find the earliest evidence of the following quotation:
>
> Pure mathematics, may it never be of any use to anyone.
> Henry John Stephen Smith, quoted in Howard Eves, Mathematical
> Circles Squared (1972)



I have heard this quotation attributed to G. H. Hardy, but I cannot provide
any references.

If it were Hardy, then he was probably referring not to "pure mathematics"
but to the theory of numbers, and it might be noted that he was wrong. In 1863
a retired Prussian Army officer, Major Friedrich W. Kasiski, showed how the
theory of numbers could be used to decypher polyalphabetic cyphers, such as the
then widely-used Viginere cypher. See Kahn _The Codebreakers_ pp 207-8.

I don't know if you are familiar with it, but Newman's four-volume set _The
World of Mathematics_ (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956, no ISBN) provides a
large number of mathematical quotations, there being at least one at the head
of each article. Unfortunately Newman does not give citation data on these
quotes. Also some interesting quotes appear in some of the articles, such as
volume I page 164 "This is theology, not mathematics!", here attributed to
"Gordan of Erlangen". (This particular quote has previously been investigated in
detail on the HM list; I don't recall what the conclusions as to it source
were).

- James A. Landau






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