Saturday, July 27, 2013

History of Math: Godfrey Hardy

You might have noticed that in this blog, I am very persistent in providing proofs for anything I say. This is because I remember wondering in math class why everything was true, and I think that information should be provided.

Most mathematicians are the same way, where they value proofs of theorems, and will never accept something just cause it seems to work a couple times. In fact, one of the main jobs of a mathematician is to take unproved conjectures and prove them.

One of these unproven conjectures is the Riemann Hypothesis, which I have talked about on this blog before. This is a problem where mathematicians have been working for decades to find a proof.

Godfrey Hardy was a British mathematician who valued proofs. He was born February 7, 1877, and had a huge contribution to the fields of number theory and mathematical analysis. He once said to a colleague, "If I could prove by logic that you would die in five minutes, I should be sorry you were going to die, but my sorrow would be very much mitigated by pleasure in the proof."

You might recognize Hardy as the mentor of Srinivasa Ramanujan, who I posted about a few months ago. When Hardy was asked what his biggest contribution to mathematics was, he stated without hesitation that it was his discovery of Ramanujan.

Hardy was an atheist, but liked to play games with a God-like being, which him and other mathematicians like to call the Supreme Fascist, or SF. One of these stories was one that I enjoyed, and wanted to share.

When he was on a boat ride from Scandinavia home to England, the water started to get very turbulent. So, he sent a postcard to a colleague back home saying that he had proved the Riemann Hypothesis. Knowing the importance of the problem, he didn't think the SF would let him die with everyone thinking he had a proof, so he felt that his safety was then guaranteed.

No comments:

Post a Comment