Quote-Worthy Discipline

April 22, 1999

Thoughts of Hans Magnus Enzensberger's Number Devil in mind, SIAM News, browsing through the Dictionary of Mathematical Quotations*, stopped at the following:

"God exists since mathematics is consistent, and the Devil exists since we cannot prove it."---André Weil

The book's (undated) quotes are drawn from a diverse array of sources, some literary---Thomas Mann (with a nonstandard reason for studying mathematics) and Don DeLillo among them---several physicists, and of course computer scientists and mathematicians from all times. Here's one from George Pólya:

"A mathematician who can only generalize is like a monkey who can only climb up a tree, and a mathematician who can specialize is like a monkey who can only climb down a tree. In fact neither the up nor down monkey is a viable creature. A real monkey must find food and escape his enemies and so he must incessantly climb up and down, up and down. A real mathematician must be able to generalize and specialize."

*Donald D. Spencer, Camelot Publishing Company, Ormond Beach, Florida, 1999.


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