Monday, 25 March 2013

Paul Erdős- Mathematician Extraordinaire

'If numbers aren't beautiful, I don't know what is.'

Paul Erdős, one of the greatest mathematicians to have graced the world would have completed a 100 years today had he been alive. In stature and number of mathematical papers published, he is comparable only to the legendary Leonhard Euler. Paul Erdős has written 1525 papers in his lifetime! Unlike other mathematicians, all his papers weren't authored by him; most of them were coauthored, he viewed and practiced Math as a social activity, for the betterment of the society.

It is safe to assume that he was a child prodigy, at the age of four, he could calculate, in his head the number of seconds a person had lived, given their age! Born to high school Mathematics teachers, Paul Erdős was always surrounded by beautiful Mathematical stuff. At 16, his father introduced him to Infinite Series and Set Theory, subjects that later went on to become his favorite. In 1934, when he was just 21 years old he was awarded a doctorate in Mathematics.

Paul Erdős had the eccentric personality that most geniuses of this stature are famous for. Worldly possessions meant nothing to him, and most of his rewards and earnings were donated to the needy. Although he was an atheist, he had a strange belief about 'THE BOOK', a book in which GOD (or Supreme Fascist as Paul Erdős referred to him) kept the best and most beautiful Mathematical proofs to himself! He spent most of his life as a wanderer, roaming around in search of the Truth; the Mathematical Truth. He would often show up at a colleague's house without informing them, and say, "My brain is open", indicating that he was ready to write a Mathematical proof along with the colleague. He would spend a week in their house before shifting to another house. Another one of his famous quote referring to this habit of his- 'Another roof, another proof'

Because he had worked with close to 511 people on Mathematical papers, his friends created the Erdős number as a humorous tribute to him. The Erdős number basically describes the closeness of a person to Paul Erdős. So, Erdős had a number 0, his closest collaborators had a number 1. See the list - LIST of people by Erdos Number

Ultimately it can be said, that Paul Erdős was more than what his achievements tell us. He was a genius, no doubt but it was his passion for Mathematics, the quest for the truth that truly defined him. He wanted the make the world a better place by spreading the beauty of Math, and we at Mathemating with Numbers salute this great personality on his 101st birthday.

Another one of his quotes!


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