Some Quotes

A remark about Hermite's teaching. It was made by A. DuNoiset, a journalist for a weekly called Le Passant, in 1882.

"You come to learn how to integrate and M. Hermite presumes that you have been integrating all your life. His course is not a course, it is a dazzling conversation, broken up into bits, with interminable digressions and meanderings all across Europe [ a reference to the frequent inclusion of discussions of recent foreign research]. He is detested by the students"
"He is unworthy of the name of man who is ignorant of the fact that the diagonal of a square is incommensurable with its side."

Plato (ca 429-347 BC)

"It seems to me that the mine is already almost too deep, and unless we discover new seams we shall sooner or later have to abandon it. Today Physics and Chemistry offer more brilliant and more easily exploited riches; and it seems that the taste of the century has turned entirely in that direction. It is not impossible that the mathematical positions in the Academies will one day become what the University chairs in Arabic are now."

J. L. Lagrange (1736-1813)

"It still remains true that, with negative theorems such as this, transforming personal convictions into objective ones requires deterringly detailed work. To visualize the whole variety of cases, one would have to display a large number of equations by curves; each curve would have to be drawn by its points, and determining a single point alone requires lengthy computations. You do not see from Fig. 4 in my first paper of 1799 , how much work was required for a proper drawing of that curve."

K. F. Gauss (1777-1855)

"If I explained my investigations as broadly as Fourier's book is written it would take me just a quarter of the time and several huge volumes."

K. F. Gauss (1777-1855)

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

"When I was a student, abelian functions were, as an effect of the Jacobian tradition, considered the uncontested summit of mathematics and each of us was ambitious to make progress in this field. And now? The younger generation hardly knows abelian functions. How did this happen? In mathematics, as in other sciences, the same process can be observed again and again. First new questions arise, for internal or external reasons, and draw researchers away from the old questions. And the old questions, just because they have been worked on so much, need ever more comprehensive study for their mastery. This is unpleasant, and so one is glad to turn to problems that have been less developed and there fore require less foreknowledge - even if it only a matter of axiomatics, or set theory, or some such thing."

Felix Klein (1849-1925)

God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

For every problem, there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.

Thomas Edison, 1922


The admirable number pi:
three point one four one.
All the following digits are also initial,
five nine two because it never ends.
It can't be comprehended six five three five at a glance,
eight nine by calculation,
seven nine or imagination,
not even three two three eight by wit, that is, by comparison
four six to anything else
two six four three in the world.
The longest snake on earth calls it quits at about forty feet.
Likewise, snakes of myth and legend, though they may hold out a bit
The pageant of digits comprising the number pi
doesn't stop at the page's edge.
It goes on across the table, through the air,
over a wall, a leaf, a bird's nest, clouds, straight into the sky,
through all the bottomless, bloated heavens.
Oh how brief - a mouse tail, a pigtail - is the tail of a comet!
How feeble the star's ray, bent by bumping up against space!
While here we have two three fifteen three hundred nineteen
my phone number your shirt size the year
nineteen hundred and seventy-three the sixth floor
the number of inhabitants sixty-five cents
hip measurement two fingers a charade, a code,
in which we find hail to thee, blithe spirit, bird thou never wert
alongside ladies and gentlemen, no cause for alarm,
as well as heaven and earth shall pass away,
but not the number pi, oh no, nothing doing,
it keeps right on with its rather remarkable five,
its uncommonly fine eight,
its far from final seven,
nudging, always nudging a sluggish eternity
to continue.

Wislawa Szymborska (Polish Nobel Laureate: 1996)