Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In memory of a great man

Paul Erdos was born a hundred years ago today.  He was perhaps the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century: certainly the greatest I ever had the privilege to meet, to spend time with, to do mathematics with.   I think that it's likely he'd make everyone's list of top ten mathematicians of all time (and with competition like Archimedes, Newton, Euler, Gauss, Hilbert, etc, that's a tough list...)

He was an amazingly gentle soul: he spent the last forty years or so of his life travelling the world, spending a week here, two days there, as Cambridge mathematician John Cassells put it: he was like a bumblebee, spreading mathematics as though he was pollinating.  He'd take news of a new theorem around the world, telling exactly the people who would know best how to extend it, use it, generalize it.

He died in 1996, at the age of 83.  And he is still much missed.

Yours, in memory,