A Mathematician's Apology

A Mathematician's Apology



The Pequod Review:

Published in 1940, G.H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology is a highly personal account of G.H. Hardy's love for the subject:

A mathematician, like a painter or poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas... The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s must be beautiful; the ideas like the colors or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.

Some of the best sections show how his passion emerged over time, a useful reminder to any creative artist who thinks they can just sit around waiting for inspiration:

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.

This is timeless advice. Recommended.