Questions tagged [mathematicians]

Questions about mathematicians and their lives. Consider whether the History of Science and Mathematics StackExchange at http://hsm.stackexchange.com/ would be a more appropriate place to ask your question.

Questions about mathematicians and their lives. Consider whether the History of Science and Mathematics StackExchange at http://hsm.stackexchange.com/ would be a more appropriate place to ask your question.

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Examples of mathematical discoveries which were kept as a secret

There could be several personal, social, philosophical and even political reasons to keep a mathematical discovery as a secret. For example it is completely expected that if some mathematician find a proof of $P=NP$, he is not allowed by the…
user180918
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Mathematicians ahead of their time?

It is said that in every field there’s that person who was years ahead of their time. For instance, Paul Morphy (born 1837) is said to have retired from chess because he found no one to match his technique that very much resembled modern chess…
hb20007
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Dantzig's unsolved homework problems

From Wikipedia: An event in George Dantzig's life became the origin of a famous story in 1939 while he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Near the beginning of a class for which Dantzig was late, professor Jerzy Neyman wrote two examples…
Max
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Did Pólya say, "can" or "cannot"?

Most mathematicians are familiar with the mathematical problem-solving book How to Solve it, by George Pólya. And for those who are not, especially young mathematicians, I would recommend dropping everything and reading it immediately. In the…
JDH
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How do you go about doing mathematics on a day to day basis?

Many young, and not so young, mathematicians struggle with how to spend their time. Perhaps this is due to the 90%-10% rule for mathematical insight: 90 pages of work yield only 10 pages of useful ideas. A venerable mathematician once described his…
Jon Bannon
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Largest "leap-to-generality" in math history?

Grothendieck, who is famous inter alia for his capacity/tendency to look for the most general formulation of a problem, introduced a number of new concepts (with topos maybe the most famous ?) that would generalize existing ones and provide a…
Alexandre Halm
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What did mathematicians study as an undergraduate/graduate before modern mathematics such as modern algebra and analysis?

I am curious as to what mathematicians such as Leibnitz and Gauss and the Bernoulli's studied when they were students in university. I find it fascinating how we are taught calculus and abstract algebra in a few semesters, usually as late teenagers…
user46372819
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Did Joseph Fourier ever make a pure mathematical mistake?

Cited by "Imre Lakatos and the Guises of Reason" John David Kadvany, 2001: It is remarkable that the nineteenth century was a time of error for mathematics: not trivial oversights or amateur conclusions, but fundamental mistakes in the…
Poliakoff
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Is any mathematican more famous for their conjecture(s) than their theorem(s)?

I'm wondering if some mathematicians gained more fame from their (perhaps visionary) conjectures, than from the positive results they proved? I would say this is not true of Fermat, despite his famous eponymous conjecture (now settled), because he…
Joseph O'Rourke
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Who are some blind or otherwise disabled mathematicians who have made important contributions to mathematics?

Two prominent mathematicians who were disabled in ways which would have made it difficult to work were Lev Pontryagin and Solomon Lefschetz. Pontryagin was blind as a result of a stove explosion at the age of $14$, though he learned mathematics…
yoknapatawpha
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Why is Lebesgue so often spelled "Lebesque"?

Henri Lebesgue (1875-1941) was a French mathematician, best known for inventing the theory of measure and integration that bears his name. As far as I know, "Lebesgue" is the correct spelling of his surname, but it seems to be quite common for…
Nate Eldredge
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Great contributions to mathematics by older mathematicians

It is often said that mathematicians hit their prime in their twenties, and some even say that no great mathematics is created after that age, or that older mathematicians have their best days behind them. I don't think this is true. Gauss…
Herng Yi
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I'm a teenager hoping to become a mathematician, but math isn't my forte. Is it possible?

I am a sophomore in high school and have discovered the joys of mathematics. However,due to sheer irony, at times I find the subject difficult. I am what one could label "lopsided" in my faculties, excelling in languages but always floundering with…
user125555
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Genius mathematicians who never published anything

Amongst philosophers, Socrates is an example of a genius with a great influence on human history who never wrote anything. Almost all facts which are known about his revolutionary ideas are written by his students like Plato and Xenophon.…
user180918
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Examples of mathematicians who lost interest in Math and got interested again?

I am looking for some examples, and hopefully some short biographies on mathematicians who lost interest in Math along the way, and somehow got rejuvenated again. (Better still, who managed to do something interesting) I hope to gather these…
user27126
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