Category Archives: Quotations

Quotation for the new year

For anyone who is currently contemplating their January exam revision through bleary eyes and wondering what the point of their maths degree was supposed to be, here’s a possible answer from the lawyer and philosopher Francis Bacon: In the mathematics … Continue reading

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Quotation for the week: Eddington

I agree with Burns that it’s valuable “to see oursels as ithers see us”. In that spirit, here’s an unflattering statement from the physicist and scientific populariser Arthur Eddington: Proof is an idol before whom the pure mathematician tortures himself. … Continue reading

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Quotation for the week: Weil

Mathematicians, and scientists more generally, sometimes seem obsessed with showing off, awarding each other prizes, and generally fretting about who’s “better” than whom. It was presumably a close view of such activity that provoked the French philosopher, activist and mystic … Continue reading

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Quotation for the week: Copernicus

A famous phrase here from Copernicus’s Preface to De Revolutionibus, in which he encourages Pope Paul III not to listen to “babblers” who criticise his work without being qualified: Mathemata mathematicis scribuntur. Mathematics is written for mathematicians.

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Quotation for the week: Gordan / Noether

This week’s quotation is anecdotal, but it captures a sensation many of us will recognise. The context is that Paul Gordan, an eminent German mathematician who had spent much of his life working on invariant theory, had just encountered a … Continue reading

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Quotation for the week: al-Haytham

Some advice this week from the mediaeval Arabic scholar Ibn Al-Haytham (better known in the West as Alhazen), the founder of what became the modern theory of optics: The duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if … Continue reading

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Quotation for the week: Somerville

The polymath Mary Somerville was a prominent figure in mathematical and scientific circles across Europe for roughly half a century. (In particular, she produced the first translation of Laplace’s Mécanique Céleste into English, and was one of the first people … Continue reading

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