The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Inactive » Historia-Matematica

Notice: We are no longer accepting new posts, but the forums will continue to be readable.

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

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List Jump to Tree View Jump to Tree View   Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
James A Landau

Posts: 217
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: [HM] "Pure Mathematics" Quote
Posted: Oct 6, 2004 8:13 AM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply

In a message dated Tue, 5 Oct 2004 16:48:14 -0400 (EDT), Fred Shapiro
<> 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

- James A. Landau

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2018. All Rights Reserved.