Who were some mathematicians who have a musical background ?

I know one mathematician , I see his video on you tube .He is a tabla player + field medal winner. His name is Manjul_Bhargava

My question is that is there any other mathematician's who have a musical background?

Edit : here Musical background word ...I mean that those who play musical instruments

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    $\begingroup$ Einstein played the violin, though I thibk ge'd be the first to say that he didn't have a 'musical background.' $\endgroup$ – Mozibur Ullah Dec 2 '20 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ What does it mean to "have a musical background"? If you just require them to know how to play an instrument, there will be lots of answers. If you have stricter requirements (professional-level player), it should be specified more clearly. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Dec 3 '20 at 7:45
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    $\begingroup$ That definition may be a tad broad, as I think that most American grade-school students learn to play an instrument in a class. Presumably there ought to be some distinction between a casual, everyday familiarity with a musical instrument and being notable as a musician. $\endgroup$ – Nat Dec 3 '20 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Nat I strongly agree. Even if you add a condition like having performed the instrument publicly in a concert, that still would be true for about a third of any math department I have been working in. $\endgroup$ – mlk Dec 3 '20 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Actress Natalie Portman plays the piano (and did so on-screen in at least one film: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium), and she holds a doctorate in mathematics. Granted neither of those are what she's most known for, so it might be a stretch to call her either a mathematician or a musician. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Dec 3 '20 at 15:24

The MacTutor Article Mathematicians and Music provides an overview of this relationship.

Amongst those mathematicians who were accomplished players and had performed in public, the article includes:

Mathematicians who were also composers with published works include:

  • Herschel (also and accomplished violinist, hautboyist, organist, and conductor)

Mathematicians who wrote on the subject of music and its analysis include:

The article comments on the common belief that mathematicians tend to make good musicians, noting recent statistical analysis which suggests that:

... in only about 2 per cent of the cases considered was there any appreciable correlation between talent for music and talent for mathematics; they found also that the percentage of males lacking in talent for music but showing a talent for mathematics was comparatively high, about 13 per cent.


Einstein was a violinist, though I think he'd be the first to say he wasn't a musician.

Eugenia Cheng is a mathematician who specialises in higher category theory. She is also a concert pianist specialising in Lieder and art song. She was awarded the Sheila Mossman Memorial award from the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music and was the first recipient of the Brughtin & Hove Arts Council award for the musician of the year.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, Iannis Xanakis, a French-Greek musician who incorporated mathematical modelling, such as stochastic processes and game and set theory into his compositions. Though, personally, I think this goes way back to Duchamp and his notion of 'found art'.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd argue that Einstein also would be the first to say he wasn't a mathematician. $\endgroup$ – mlk Dec 3 '20 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @mlk: I'd argue that everybody else would see him as a mathematician as well as a physicist ... $\endgroup$ – Mozibur Ullah Dec 5 '20 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ Well I don't. Wikipedia also doesn't call him a mathematician. Now don't get me wrong, he was most certainly more than just proficient in using mathematics, but as far as I know he only ever used it as a tool for doing physics and even then he preferred his thought experiments. $\endgroup$ – mlk Dec 5 '20 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @mlk: Wikipedia is not everyone else. The average man on the street when faced with a mathematical physicist or a mathematician interested in physics isn't going to be able to distinguish between them. Thats what I say what I did. Mathematicians have thought experiments - they call them conjectures. $\endgroup$ – Mozibur Ullah Dec 5 '20 at 17:47

Per Enflo (see Wikipedia for a longer summary)

concert pianist, mathematician (solutions for the basis problem, the approximation problem, the invariant subspace problem in Banach space theory )

At a certain point in his life, he had to choose between the two. He reasoned that the likelihood of ever reaching the top as a concert pianist was small, compared to the same thing in mathematics. He chose mathematics. But throughout his life, despite being a professor of mathematics, he continued to do piano performances. When I knew him (maybe 1980's) he still spent two hours a day practicing on the piano.

The basis problem was placed in the Scottish Book by Banach. The prize offered was a live goose. Enflo did, indeed, receive the prize.


There's always Tom Leher. I think he counts as a musician and mathematician.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQHaGhC7C2E ("Lobachevsky". It's satire, by the way)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhuMLpdnOjY (Poisoning Pigeons in the Park)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGM-wSKFBpo (The Elements)


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