Articles of mathematicians

What is the primary source of Hilbert's famous “man in the street” statement?

I read somewhere a long time ago that Hilbert once said words (no doubt in German) to the effect that any mathematician worth his salt ought to be able to explain his results to any man in the street. Can anybody tell me where the primary source for this quote is?

Unpublished Discoveries by Gauss that Were Later Rediscovered and Attributed to Other Mathematicians

Karl Friedrich Gauss made many discoveries that he did not publish and that remained unknown until later mathematicians (re)discovered them. When Gauss’s personal notebooks were later examined, it turned out that he had made the same discoveries decades earlier. For example, in Visual Complex Analysis Tristan Needham discusses how Hamilton and Rodrigues were apparently the […]

Looking for an André Weil excerpt

I just wasted the last hour on google looking in vain for an excerpt of Weil’s writings describing the process of discovering mathematics. I believe he once beautifully described the feeling of loss that accompanies the realization that the discovery you made seems, in retrospect, trivial. Am I misremembering or just bad at googling? Thanks […]

math-biography of mathematicians

Some of the mathematicians agree that reading biography (or more specifically, math-autobiography, scientific-biography) gives lot of inspiration for working; and I am one of them. One book which I know is: An Automathography by Paul Halmos. My request is: Can you recommend few more similar types, that is, auomathography, or biography of mathematicians ? Thanks,

How do you go about doing mathematics on a day to day basis?

Many young, and not so young, mathematicians struggle with how to spend their time. Perhaps this is due to the 90%-10% rule for mathematical insight: 90 pages of work yield only 10 pages of useful ideas. A venerable mathematician once described his career to me as constantly stumbling around in the dark. Of course, this […]

Why is Lebesgue so often spelled “Lebesque”?

Henri Lebesgue (1875-1941) was a French mathematician, best known for inventing the theory of measure and integration that bears his name. As far as I know, “Lebesgue” is the correct spelling of his surname, but it seems to be quite common for people to spell it “Lebesque”, with a q. Why is this? Is “Lebesque” […]

Mathematical concepts named after mathematicians that have become acceptable to spell in lowercase form (e.g. abelian)?

I would like to collect a list of mathematical concepts that have been named after mathematicians, which are now used in lowercase form (such as “abelian”). This question is partly motivated by my former supervisor, who joked (something like): You know you’ve made it as a mathematician when they start using your name in lowercase. […]

Provenance of Hilbert quote on table, chair, beer mug

All over the web one can find statements to the effect that: “One must be able to say at all times–instead of points, straight lines, and planes–tables, chairs, and beer mugs” There are many variations, some in quotes (lots of variations here) and some not, all paraphrases of the same thing. But I can’t seem […]

Examples of mathematical discoveries which were kept as a secret

There could be several personal, social, philosophical and even political reasons to keep a mathematical discovery as a secret. For example it is completely expected that if some mathematician find a proof of $P=NP$, he is not allowed by the government to publish it as same as a usual theorem in a well-known public journal […]

Who are some blind or otherwise disabled mathematicians who have made important contributions to mathematics?

Two prominent mathematicians who were disabled in ways which would have made it difficult to work were Lev Pontryagin and Solomon Lefschetz. Pontryagin was blind as a result of a stove explosion at the age of $14$, though he learned mathematics because his mother read him math papers and books, and he went on to […]