
Re: [HM] "Pure Mathematics" Quote
Posted:
Oct 6, 2004 8:13 AM


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 widelyused Viginere cypher. See Kahn _The Codebreakers_ pp 2078.
I don't know if you are familiar with it, but Newman's fourvolume 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

