In Havil's 2003 book Gamma he states that Hardy offered up his chair in Oxford to whoever could prove that the Euler-Mascheroni constant $\gamma$ is irrational.

I'm almost positive I had heard a source of this prior to Havil.

But what is the earliest source of this? Did Hardy really make the offer, and if so was it serious or just as a statement meant to attest to the difficulty of such a question?


Nick R points to Mathworld as indicating that there is no written reference for this quote.

So then I'll change my question - what was Havil's source? His book was quite solid otherwise.

  • $\begingroup$ What are the reasons for not believing that he would really give his chair at Oxford? $\endgroup$
    – Grešnik
    Jul 1, 2019 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ No reason to doubt it, other than idle curiosity about the source of the statement. $\endgroup$
    – Mark S
    Jul 1, 2019 at 19:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The WolframMathworld site states that there is no known written reference for this episode. $\endgroup$
    – nwr
    Jul 2, 2019 at 0:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The offer can hardly have been serious, as the appointment of his successor was not in his gift. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2019 at 7:29
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft The math community is 100% convinced that "the paper is incorrect, and in many places", see Has Euler's Constant γ been proven to be irrational? on Math SE. This author has also "proved" the Goldbach Conjecture, the Twin Primes Conjecture, and the generalized Riemann Hypothesis. Posting on arxiv does not go through peer review, and not everybody is a Perelman. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Jul 2, 2019 at 16:44


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