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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > G. H. Hardy Quotes > Mathematician

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G. H. Hardy
(7 Feb 1877 - 1 Dec 1947)

English pure mathematician who made leading contributions in analysis and number theory.


G. H. Hardy Quotes on Mathematician (19 quotes)

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A mathematician … has no material to work with but ideas, and so his patterns are likely to last longer, since ideas wear less with time than words.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 84.
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A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 84.
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A painter makes patterns with shapes and colours, a poet with words. A painting may embody an “idea,” but the idea is usually commonplace and unimportant. In poetry, ideas count for a good deal more; but, as Housman insisted, the importance of ideas in poetry is habitually exaggerated. … The poverty of ideas seems hardly to affect the beauty of the verbal pattern. A mathematician, on the other hand, has no material to work with but ideas, and so his patterns are likely to last longer, since ideas wear less with time than words.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 2012), 84-85.
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Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not. “Immortality” may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 81.
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Greek mathematics is the real thing. The Greeks first spoke a language which modern mathematicians can understand… So Greek mathematics is ‘permanent’, more permanent even than Greek literature.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 81.
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I count Maxwell and Einstein, Eddington and Dirac, among “real” mathematicians. The great modern achievements of applied mathematics have been in relativity and quantum mechanics, and these subjects are at present at any rate, almost as “useless” as the theory of numbers.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 131.
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I do not remember having felt, as a boy, any passion for mathematics, and such notions as I may have had of the career of a mathematician were far from noble. I thought of mathematics in terms of examinations and scholarships: I wanted to beat other boys, and this seemed to be the way in which I could do so most decisively.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 144.
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If a man is in any sense a real mathematician, then it is a hundred to one that his mathematics will be far better than anything else he can do, and that it would be silly if he surrendered any decent opportunity of exercising his one talent in order to do undistinguished work in other fields. Such a sacrifice could be justified only by economic necessity of age.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 70.
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If intellectual curiosity, professional pride, and ambition are the dominant incentives to research, then assuredly no one has a fairer chance of gratifying them than a mathematician.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 80.
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It is a melancholy experience for a professional mathematician to find him writing about mathematics. The function of a mathematician is to do something, to prove new theorems, to add to mathematics, and not to talk about what he or other mathematicians have done. Statesmen despise publicists, painters despise art-critics, and physiologists, physicists, or mathematicians have usually similar feelings; there is no scorn more profound, or on the whole more justifiable, than that of men who make for the men who explain. Exposition, criticism, appreciation, is work for second-rate minds.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 61 (Hardy's opening lines after Snow's foreward).
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No mathematician should ever allow him to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game. … Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty. There have been men who have done great work later; … [but] I do not know of a single instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty. … A mathematician may still be competent enough at sixty, but it is useless to expect him to have original ideas.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1941, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 70-71.
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No mathematician should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game.
— G. H. Hardy
A Mathematician's Apology (1940), 10.
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Reductio ad absurdum, which Euclid loved so much, is one of a mathematician's finest weapons. It is a far finer gambit than any chess play: a chess player may offer the sacrifice of a pawn or even a piece, but a mathematician offers the game.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 94.
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The mathematician is in much more direct contact with reality. … [Whereas] the physicist’s reality, whatever it may be, has few or none of the attributes which common sense ascribes instinctively to reality. A chair may be a collection of whirling electrons.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 128.
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The mathematician's patterns … must be beautiful … Beauty is the first test; there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 85.
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The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words must fit together in a harmonious way.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 85.
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What we do may be small, but it has a certain character of permanence and to have produced anything of the slightest permanent interest, whether it be a copy of verses or a geometrical theorem, is to have done something utterly beyond the powers of the vast majority of men.
— G. H. Hardy
From Inaugural Lecture, Oxford (1920). Recalled in A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 76.
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When the world is mad, a mathematician may find in mathematics an incomparable anodyne. For mathematics is, of all the arts and sciences, the most austere and the most remote, and a mathematician should be of all men the one who can most easily take refuge where, as Bertrand Russell says, “one at least of our nobler impulses can best escape from the dreary exile of the actual world.”
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 43.
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[I was advised] to read Jordan's 'Cours d'analyse'; and I shall never forget the astonishment with which I read that remarkable work, the first inspiration for so many mathematicians of my generation, and learnt for the first time as I read it what mathematics really meant.
— G. H. Hardy
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 23.
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See also:
  • 7 Feb - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Hardy's birth.
  • Godfrey Harold Hardy - context of quote Languages die and mathematical ideas do not - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Godfrey Harold Hardy - context of quote Languages die and mathematical ideas do not - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Godfrey Harold Hardy - context of quote Young men should prove theorems, old men should write books. - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Godfrey Harold Hardy - context of quote Young men should prove theorems, old men should write books. - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • A Mathematician's Apology, by G. H. Hardy. - book suggestion.

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