32 votes
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Euler: “A baby on his lap, a cat on his back — that’s how he wrote his immortal works” (origin?)

The origin is undoubtedly Dieudonné Thiébault, as the anecdote is reported in his personal recollections of his stay in Berlin, published in Mes souvenirs de vingt ans de séjour à Berlin, vol. 5, (...
user6530's user avatar
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27 votes
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Does Arnold say that Hardy is responsible for Ramanujan's untimely death?

I think it is fairly obvious from the quote that Arnold is blaming Hardy's neglect for Ramanujan's death. The real question is whether his charge is supported by evidence. Arnold's evidence comes ...
Conifold's user avatar
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23 votes
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Who was Heinrich Kornblum?

The Göttingen Digitalization Center provides a digital scan of the paper H. Kornblum: "Über die Primfunktionen in einer arithmetischen Progression." Mathematische Zeitschrift 5 (1919), 100–111 online. ...
njuffa's user avatar
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22 votes
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What is the origin of the negation ( ¬ ) operator from logic?

If vague resemblance is enough, then "$¬$" resembles "$-$", which denotes negation in arithmetic. Lambert in Sechs Versuche einer Zeichenkunst in der Vernunftlehre (1782) and Boole ...
Conifold's user avatar
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22 votes

Mathematicians who wrote fiction

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, wrote some well-known fiction books. In case you consider Marvin Minsky a mathematician (16 papers in Zentralblatt), he coauthored with Harry ...
user6530's user avatar
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21 votes
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Mathematical results that became known long after their authors passed away

Ramanujan's Lost Notebook is one such collection of mathematical results. It consists of loose and unordered sheets of paper in which the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan recorded the ...
Big Brother's user avatar
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20 votes

Mathematical results that became known long after their authors passed away

Bolzano. Here is a copy of an answer of mine from MathOverflow: Bernhard Bolzano .... ( interesting reading ) Much of his work was unpublished until much later (for reasons see the link), thus ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
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14 votes
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What is the earliest mention of doubling grains on a chessboard story?

The name is not lost to the ages, it was made up along with the rest of this fable. Sissa ben Dahir, an Indian brahmin or grand vizier, supposedly invented chaturanga, a predecessor of chess, ...
Conifold's user avatar
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13 votes

Mathematicians who wrote fiction

Fred Hoyle was an Astronomer, but he passes the Zentralblat test. He wrote several novels, most notably The Black Cloud. In addition to The Black Cloud, I read a thriller he wrote with his son, ...
Michael Clase's user avatar
13 votes
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What did the study plan of a early 20th century mathematics undergraduate program look like?

Here is an example. link https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:467220382$1i Official Register of Harvard University Volume VI, May 26, 1909, number 16 Announcement of the Courses of ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
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12 votes
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Plagiarism at the turn of 20th century

Date: 1930's. There is the story of the "ergodic theorem". Young mathematician John von Neumann proved the so-called "mean ergodic theorem". He wrote it up and sent it to the Proceedings of the ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
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11 votes

Mathematical results that became known long after their authors passed away

Is the Fast Fourier Transform a mathematical result? The point might be debated but its history has been well researched (e.g. Heideman et al., (1984). Gauss and the history of the fast FFT . IEEE ...
sand1's user avatar
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11 votes

Why are there so few Iberian mathematicians in history?

Unlike North Africa and the Near East, the Iberian Peninsula missed out on the Hellenic influence that dominated classical mathematics; hence the lack of an Iberian Euclid. Compared to the Greeks, the ...
Uri Granta's user avatar
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10 votes
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Why are there so few Iberian mathematicians in history?

As I was uncertain about the premise of this question—i.e., it looks as if there are fewer Spanish and Portuguese mathematicians than others—but without the numbers to prove it, I went in for some ...
gktscrk's user avatar
  • 328
10 votes

Non-Euclidean geometry: motivations to develop it at the times of Gauss?

The motivation of discoverers of non-Euclidean geometry (Gauss, Lobachevski and Bolyai) was their attempts to prove the Fifth postulate of Euclid (to deduce it from the other axioms, or to replace by ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
10 votes
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Is there evidence that Gödel said "phoned with God"?

I have not been able to locate the passage in Rautenberg's book in which the episode is reported (EDIT: is in Chapter 6.4 "The Representability Theorem" on page 243), however a similar ...
user6530's user avatar
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9 votes
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Why did Richard Bellman, creator of dynamic programing say: 1950s were not good years for maths?

The quote appears to be from: Stuart Dreyfus, (2002) Richard Bellman on the Birth of Dynamic Programming. Operations Research 50(1):48-51. https://doi.org/10.1287/opre.50.1.48.17791. In context, it'...
simplicio's user avatar
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9 votes

What's the history of "left as exercise" or notions similar to that?

The oldest I can recall is Descartes in La Géométrie (1637): But I shall not stop to explain this in more detail, because I should deprive you of the pleasure of mastering it yourself, as well as of ...
Michael E2's user avatar
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9 votes

Mathematicians who wrote fiction

My answer copied from another forum: Mathematician Eric Temple Bell President of the MAA, 1931-32 Author of the book Men of Mathematics Bell numbers, Bell polynomials etc. Also was a successful ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
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9 votes

Mathematicians who wrote fiction

Rudy Rucker is a mathematician, computer scientist, and SF writer. He wrote the Ware Tetrology (Software, Wetware, Freeware, Realware)
toastifer's user avatar
  • 191
9 votes

Mathematicians who wrote fiction

Since I'm fluent in Russian, I did some googling for russian ones. Sofya Kovalevskaya was not simply a published mathematician, but a first woman who obtained what can be classified as a doctoral ...
DVK's user avatar
  • 191
9 votes
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How did the concept of local field emerge and develop in mathematics?

In hindsight, Archimedean local fields (real and complex numbers) were around since 16th century, but nobody thought of them in such terms. What stimulated the development of the abstract concept was ...
Conifold's user avatar
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8 votes
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How did ZFC become the standard foundations of mathematics?

First, "foundations" are not what they once used to be. The idea of "one true logic" and "one true mathematics" justifiable from self-evident truths does not have much ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 75.9k
8 votes

Mathematical results that became known long after their authors passed away

One of the most famous examples is the Gauss's diary which was discovered in 1897.
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
8 votes

How many important logicians did NOT receive doctoral degrees?

Thoralf Skolem could perhaps be counted as a quasi example of that. He did not enroll as a PhD candidate before becoming a docent and a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and it ...
J Marcos's user avatar
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8 votes
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The abstraction of mathematics from physics

You are right, this happened in ancient Greece, and is credited to Thales and Pythagoras. Unfortunately, too little of their early work survived (nothing written by Thales or Pythagoras). The main ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
8 votes

Mathematicians who wrote fiction

If you consider Bertrand Russell to be a mathematician, he wrote two volumes of short stories near the end of his life but they were met with ''baffled silence'' even by his most ardent fans (in the ...
Hollis Williams's user avatar
7 votes

Substantiating claimed Fourier quote about “an arbitrarily capricious graph”

You can find the quote (or something similar) in multiple places in the Théorie analytique de la chaleur, for example in Chapter I, paragraph (article) 14: "L'examen de cette condition fait ...
user6530's user avatar
  • 3,870
7 votes

Publication of mathematical papers in journals of enemy country

I just looked through the WWII issues of Crelle's Journal: Volume 182 (1940) contains four papers by Philip Hall in Cambridge. The first two had been submitted in the summer of 1939, before the war; ...
Torsten Schoeneberg's user avatar
7 votes
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Is there a theorem proof whose accuracy is doubted because it is short?

There's something like this in Volume II of Feller's Introduction to Probability Theory and Its Applications, Section I.5. Suppose $X_0, X_1, X_2, \ldots$ is an infinite sequence of i.i.d. real-...
Timothy Chow's user avatar
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