Mathematical Quotations

- A -

- B -

- C -

- D -

- E -

- F -

- G -

- H -

- J -

- K -

- L -

- M -

- N -

- O -

- P -

- R -

- S -

- T -

- U -

- V -

- W -


return to top of page

Adams, Douglas (1952 - )
Bistromathics itself is simply a revolutionary new way of understanding the behavior of numbers. Just as Einstein observed that space was not an absolute but depended on the observer's movement in space, and that time was not an absolute, but depended on the observer's movement in time, so it is now realized that numbers are not absolute, but depend on the observer's movement in restaurants.
Life, the Universe and Everything. New York: Harmony Books, 1982.

Adams, Douglas (1952 - )
The first nonabsolute number is the number of people for whom the table is reserved. This will vary during the course of the first three telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent relation to the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people who subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of people who leave when they see who else has turned up.
The second nonabsolute number is the given time of arrival, which is now known to be one of the most bizarre of mathematical concepts, a recipriversexcluson, a number whose existence can only be defined as being anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of arrival is the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any member of the party will arrive. Recipriversexclusons now play a vital part in many branches of math, including statistics and accountancy and also form the basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else's Problem field.
The third and most mysterious piece of nonabsoluteness of all lies in the relationship between the number of items on the bill, the cost of each item, the number of people at the table and what they are each prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually brought any money is only a subphenomenon of this field.)
Life, the Universe and Everything. New York: Harmony Books, 1982.

Adams, Douglas (1952 - )
Numbers written on restaurant bills within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the Universe.
This single statement took the scientific world by storm. It completely revolutionized it. So many mathematical conferences got held in such good restaurants that many of the finest minds of a generation died of obesity and heart failure and the science of math was put back by years.
Life, the Universe and Everything. New York: Harmony Books, 1982.

Adams, John (1735 - 1826)
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
Letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780.

Adler, Alfred
In the company of friends, writers can discuss their books, economists the state of the economy, lawyers their latest cases, and businessmen their latest acquisitions, but mathematicians cannot discuss their mathematics at all. And the more profound their work, the less understandable it is.
Reflections: mathematics and creativity, New Yorker, 47(1972), no. 53, 39 - 45.

Arbuthnot, John

The Reader may here observe the Force of Numbers, which can be successfully applied, even to those things, which one would imagine are subject to no Rules. There are very few things which we know, which are not capable of being reduc'd to a Mathematical Reasoning; and when they cannot it's a sign our knowledge of them is very small and confus'd; and when a Mathematical Reasoning can be had it's as great a folly to make use of any other, as to grope for a thing in the dark, when you have a Candle standing by you.
Of the Laws of Chance. (1692)

Aristotle (ca 330 BC)
The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Metaphysica 10f-1045a

St. Augustine (354-430)
Six is a number perfect in itself, and not because God created the world in six days; rather the contrary is true. God created the world in six days because this number is perfect, and it would remain perfect, even if the work of the six days did not exist.
The City of God.

St. Augustine (354-430)
If I am given a formula, and I am ignorant of its meaning, it cannot teach me anything, but if I already know it what does the formula teach me?
De Magistro ch X, 23.


return to top of page

Babbage, Charles (1792-1871)
Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.

Bell, Eric Temple (1883-1960)
The longer mathematics lives the more abstract -- and therefore, possibly also the more practical -- it becomes.
In The Mathematical Intelligencer, vol. 13, no. 1, Winter 1991.


return to top of page

Caballero, James

I advise my students to listen carefully the moment they decide to take no more mathematics courses. They might be able to hear the sound of closing doors.
Everybody a mathematician?,CAIP Quarterly 2 (Fall, 1989).

Carlyle, Thomas (1795 - 1881)
It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my hand alters the centre of gravity of the universe.
Sartor Resartus III.

Carroll, Lewis
"Can you do addition?" the White Queen asked. "What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?" "I don't know," said Alice. "I lost count."
Through the Looking Glass.

Carmichael, R. D.
A thing is obvious mathematically after you see it.
In N. Rose (ed.) Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC: Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Churchill, Sir Winston Spencer (1874-1965)
I had a feeling once about Mathematics - that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me - the Byss and Abyss. I saw - as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor's Show - a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable but it was after dinner and I let it go.
In H. Eves Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1988.

Coolidge, Julian Lowell (1873 - 1954)
[Upon proving that the best betting strategy for "Gambler's Ruin" was to bet all on the first trial.]
It is true that a man who does this is a fool. I have only proved that a man who does anything else is an even bigger fool.
In H. Eves Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1988.


return to top of page

The mathematician may be compared to a designer of garments, who is utterly oblivious of the creatures whom his garments may fit. To be sure, his art originated in the necessity for clothing such creatures, but this was long ago; to this day a shape will occasionally appear which will fit into the garment as if the garment had been made for it. Then there is no end of surprise and delight.

Davis, Philip J. and Hersh, Reuben
One began to hear it said that World War I was the chemists' war, World War II was the physicists' war, World War III (may it never come) will be the mathematicians' war.
The Mathematical Experience, Boston: Birkhäuser, 1981.

Descartes, René (1596-1650)
Cogito Ergo Sum. "I think, therefore I am."
Discours de la Méthode. 1637.

Dirac, Paul Adrien Maurice (1902- )
I think that there is a moral to this story, namely that it is more important to have beauty in one's equations that to have them fit experiment. If Schroedinger had been more confident of his work, he could have published it some months earlier, and he could have published a more accurate equation. It seems that if one is working from the point of view of getting beauty in one's equations, and if one has really a sound insight, one is on a sure line of progress. If there is not complete agreement between the results of one's work and experiment, one should not allow oneself to be too discouraged, because the discrepancy may well be due to minor features that are not properly taken into account and that will get cleared up with further development of the theory.
Scientific American, May 1963.

Dirac, Paul Adrien Maurice (1902- )
Mathematics is the tool specially suited for dealing with abstract concepts of any kind and there is no limit to its power in this field.
In P. J. Davis and R. Hersh The Mathematical Experience, Boston: Birkhäuser, 1981.

Disraeli, Benjamin
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Mark Twain. Autobiography.

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan (1859-1930)
Detection is, or ought to be, an exact sciences and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.
The Sign of Four.

Dunsany, Lord
Logic, like whiskey, loses its beneficial effect when taken in too large quantities.
In J. R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.


return to top of page

Eddington, Sir Arthur (1882-1944)
We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about `and'.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC: Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Einstein, Albert (1879-1955)
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Reader's Digest. Oct. 1977.

Ellis, Havelock
The mathematician has reached the highest rung on the ladder of human thought.
The Dance of Life.

Ellis, Havelock
It is here [in mathematics] that the artist has the fullest scope of his imagination.
The Dance of Life.

Erath, V.
God is a child; and when he began to play, he cultivated mathematics. It is the most godly of man's games.
Das blinde Spiel. 1954.

Eves, Howard W.
Mathematics may be likened to a large rock whose interior composition we wish to examine. The older mathematicians appear as persevering stone cutters slowly attempting to demolish the rock from the outside with hammer and chisel. The later mathematicians resemble expert miners who seek vulnerable veins, drill into these strategic places, and then blast the rock apart with well placed internal charges.
In Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1969.

Ewing, John
If the entire Mandelbrot set were placed on an ordinary sheet of paper, the tiny sections of boundary we examine would not fill the width of a hydrogen atom. Physicists think about such tiny objects; only mathematicians have microscopes fine enough to actually observe them.
"Can We See the Mandelbrot Set?", The College Mathematics Journal, v. 26, no. 2, March 1995.


return to top of page

de Fermat, Pierre (1601?-1665)
[In the margin of his copy of Diophantus' Arithmetica, Fermat wrote]
To divide a cube into two other cubes, a fourth power or in general any power whatever into two powers of the same denomination above the second is impossible, and I have assuredly found an admirable proof of this, but the margin is too narrow to contain it.

Fisher, Ronald Aylmer (1890 - 1962)
Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability.

Frankland, W.B.
Whereas at the outset geometry is reported to have concerned herself with the measurement of muddy land, she now handles celestial as well as terrestrial problems: she has extended her domain to the furthest bounds of space.
Hodder and Stoughton, The Story of Euclid. 1901.


return to top of page

Galilei, Galileo (1564 - 1642)
[The universe] cannot be read until we have learnt the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word.
Opere Il Saggiatore p. 171.

Galton, Sir Francis (1822-1911)
I know of scarcely anything so apt to impress the imagination as the wonderful form of cosmic order expressed by the "Law of Frequency of Error." The law would have been personified by the Greeks and deified, if they had known of it. It reigns with serenity and in complete self-effacement, amidst the wildest confusion. The huger the mob, and the greater the apparent anarchy, the more perfect is its sway. It is the supreme law of Unreason. Whenever a large sample of chaotic elements are taken in hand and marshaled in the order of their magnitude, an unsuspected and most beautiful form of regularity proves to have been latent all along.
In J. R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956. p. 1482.

Gardner, Martin
Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals -- the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned, if at all.
In G. Simmons Calculus Gems, New York: McGraw Hill, 1992.

Gardner, Martin
Mathematics is not only real, but it is the only reality. That is that entire universe is made of matter, obviously. And matter is made of particles. It's made of electrons and neutrons and protons. So the entire universe is made out of particles. Now what are the particles made out of? They're not made out of anything. The only thing you can say about the reality of an electron is to cite its mathematical properties. So there's a sense in which matter has completely dissolved and what is left is just a mathematical structure.
Gardner on Gardner: JPBM Communications Award Presentation. Focus-The Newsletter of the Mathematical Association of America v. 14, no. 6, December 1994.

Gauss, Karl Friedrich (1777-1855)
It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into darkness again; the never-satisfied man is so strange if he has completed a structure, then it is not in order to dwell in it peacefully, but in order to begin another. I imagine the world conqueror must feel thus, who, after one kingdom is scarcely conquered, stretches out his arms for others.
Letter to Bolyai, 1808.

Gibbs, Josiah Willard (1839-1903)
Mathematics is a language.

Gilbert, W. S. (1836 - 1911)
I'm very good at integral and differential calculus, I know the scientific names of beings animalculous; In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral, I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
The Pirates of Penzance. Act 1.

Glaisher, J.W.
The mathematician requires tact and good taste at every step of his work, and he has to learn to trust to his own instinct to distinguish between what is really worthy of his efforts and what is not.
In H. Eves Mathematical Circles Squared, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1972.


return to top of page

Hadamard, Jacques
The shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain.
Quoted in The Mathematical Intelligencer, v. 13, no. 1, Winter 1991.

Halmos, Paul R.
To be a scholar of mathematics you must be born with talent, insight, concentration, taste, luck, drive and the ability to visualize and guess.
I Want to be a Mathematician, Washington: MAA Spectrum, 1985.

Hardy, Godfrey H. (1877 - 1947)
[On Ramanujan]
I remember once going to see him when he was lying ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavorable omen. "No," he replied, "it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways."
Ramanujan, London: Cambridge Univesity Press, 1940.

Hardy, Godfrey H. (1877 - 1947)
Reductio ad absurdum, which Euclid loved so much, is one of a mathematician's finest weapons. It is a far finer gambit than any chess play: a chess player may offer the sacrifice of a pawn or even a piece, but a mathematician offers the game.
A Mathematician's Apology, London, Cambridge University Press, 1941.

Hardy, Godfrey H. (1877 - 1947)
I am interested in mathematics only as a creative art.
A Mathematician's Apology, London, Cambridge University Press, 1941.

Hardy, Godfrey H. (1877 - 1947)
Pure mathematics is on the whole distinctly more useful than applied. For what is useful above all is technique, and mathematical technique is taught mainly through pure mathematics.

Hardy, Godfrey H. (1877 - 1947)
The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colors or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics.
A Mathematician's Apology, London, Cambridge University Press, 1941.

Hardy, Godfrey H. (1877 - 1947)
Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not. "Immortality" may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean.
A Mathematician's Apology, London, Cambridge University Press,1941.

Hertz, Heinrich
One cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical formulas have an independent existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser that we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them.
Quoted by ET Bell in Men of Mathematics, New York, 937.

Hilbert, David (1862-1943)
Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.
In H. Eves Mathematical Circles Squared, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1972.

Hilbert, David (1862-1943)
The infinite! No other question has ever moved so profoundly the spirit of man.
In J. R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell
Descartes commanded the future from his study more than Napoleon from the throne.
In G. Simmons Calculus Gems, New York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1992.

Hofstadter, Douglas R. (1945 - )
Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.
Gödel, Escher, Bach 1979.


return to top of page

James, William (1842 - 1910)
The union of the mathematician with the poet, fervor with measure, passion with correctness, this surely is the ideal.
Collected Essays.

Jeans, Sir James
From the intrinsic evidence of his creation, the Great Architect of the Universe now begins to appear as a pure mathematician.
Mysterious Universe.


return to top of page

Kasner, E. and Newman, J.
Mathematics is often erroneously referred to as the science of common sense. Actually, it may transcend common sense and go beyond either imagination or intuition. It has become a very strange and perhaps frightening subject from the ordinary point of view, but anyone who penetrates into it will find a veritable fairyland, a fairyland which is strange, but makes sense, if not common sense.
Mathematics and the Imagination, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1940.

Kelley, John
A topologist is one who doesn't know the difference between a doughnut and a coffee cup.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Kepler, Johannes (1571-1630)
Where there is matter, there is geometry.
(Ubi materia, ibi geometria.)
J. Koenderink Solid Shape, Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press, 1990

Kepler, Johannes (1571-1630)
The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.

Koestler, Arthur (1905- )
In the index to the six hundred odd pages of Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History, abridged version, the names of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes and Newton do not occur yet their cosmic quest destroyed the medieval vision of an immutable social order in a walled-in universe and transformed the European landscape, society, culture, habits and general outlook, as thoroughly as if a new species had arisen on this planet.
In G. Simmons Calculus Gems, New York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1992.


return to top of page

Lanczos, Cornelius
Most of the arts, as painting, sculpture, and music, have emotional appeal to the general public. This is because these arts can be experienced by some one or more of our senses. Such is not true of the art of mathematics; this art can be appreciated only by mathematicians, and to become a mathematician requires a long period of intensive training. The community of mathematicians is similar to an imaginary community of musical composers whose only satisfaction is obtained by the interchange among themselves of the musical scores they compose.
In H. Eves Mathematical Circles Squared, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1972.

Leonardo da Vinci(1452-1519)
No human investigation can be called real science if it cannot be demonstrated mathematically.

le Lionnais, Francois
Who has not be amazed to learn that the function y = e^x , like a phoenix rising again from its own ashes, is its own derivative?
Great Currents of Mathematical Thought, vol. 1, New York: Dover Publications.

Littlewood, J. E. (1885 -1977)
A good mathematical joke is better, and better mathematics, than a dozen mediocre papers.
A Mathematician's Miscellany, Methuen and Co. ltd., 1953.

Littlewood, J. E. (1885 -1977)
A precisian professor had the habit of saying: "... quartic polynomial ax^4+bx^3+cx^2+dx+e , where e need not be the base of the natural logarithms."
A Mathematician's Miscellany, Methuen Co. Ltd., 1953.


return to top of page

Mann, Thomas (1875-1955)
A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a great truth.
Essay on Freud. 1937.

Matthias, Bernd T
If you see a formula in the Physical Review that extends over a quarter of a page, forget it. It's wrong. Nature isn't that complicated.

Mittag-Leffler, Gösta
The mathematician's best work is art, a high perfect art, as daring as the most secret dreams of imagination, clear and limpid. Mathematical genius and artistic genius touch one another.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.


return to top of page

Newman, James, R.
The discovery in 1846 of the planet Neptune was a dramatic and spectacular achievement of mathematical astronomy. The very existence of this new member of the solar system, and its exact location, were demonstrated with pencil and paper; there was left to observers only the routine task of pointing their telescopes at the spot the mathematicians had marked.
In J. R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.


return to top of page

Oakley, C.O.
The study of mathematics cannot be replaced by any other activity that will train and develop man's purely logical faculties to the same level of rationality.
The American Mathematical Monthly, 56, 1949, p19.


return to top of page

Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)
We are usually convinced more easily by reasons we have found ourselves than by those which have occurred to others.
Pensees. 1670.

Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)
We arrive at truth, not by reason only, but also by the heart.
Pensees. 1670.

Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)
Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us consider the two possibilities. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Hesitate not, then, to wager that He is.
Pensees. 1670.

Plato (ca 429-347 BC)
He is unworthy of the name of man who is ignorant of the fact that the diagonal of a square is incommensurable with its side.

Poincaré, Jules Henri (1854-1912)
What is it indeed that gives us the feeling of elegance in a solution, in a demonstration? It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Poisson, Siméon (1781-1840)
Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics.
Mathematics Magazine, v. 64, no. 1, Feb. 1991.

Polyá, George (1887, 1985)
The traditional mathematics professor of the popular legend is absentminded. He usually appears in public with a lost umbrella in each hand. He prefers to face the blackboard and to turn his back to the class. He writes a, he says b, he means c; but it should be d. Some of his sayings are handed down from generation to generation.
"In order to solve this differential equation you look at it till a solution occurs to you."
"This principle is so perfectly general that no particular application of it is possible."
"Geometry is the science of correct reasoning on incorrect figures."
"My method to overcome a difficulty is to go round it."
"What is the difference between method and device? A method is a device which you used twice."
How to Solve It. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1945.

Polyá, George (1887, 1985)
Mathematics is the cheapest science. Unlike physics or chemistry, it does not require any expensive equipment. All one needs for mathematics is a pencil and paper.
D. J. Albers and G. L. Alexanderson, Mathematical People, Boston: Birkhäuser, 1985.

Polyá, George (1887, 1985)
Even fairly good students, when they have obtained the solution of the problem and written down neatly the argument, shut their books and look for something else. Doing so, they miss an important and instructive phase of the work. ... A good teacher should understand and impress on his students the view that no problem whatever is completely exhausted.
How to Solve It. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1945.

Pordage, Matthew
One of the endearing things about mathematicians is the extent to which they will go to avoid doing any real work.
In H. Eves Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1988.


return to top of page

Rényi, Alfréd
If I feel unhappy, I do mathematics to become happy. If I am happy, I do mathematics to keep happy.
P. Turán, "The Work of Alfréd Rényi", Matematikai Lapok 21, 1970, pp 199 - 210.

Rosenblueth, A
[with Norbert Wiener]
The best material model of a cat is another, or preferably the same, cat.
Philosophy of Science 1945.

Rosenlicht, Max (1949)
You know we all became mathematicians for the same reason: we were lazy.

Rossi, Hugo

In the fall of 1972 President Nixon announced that the rate of increase of inflation was decreasing. This was the first time a sitting president used the third derivative to advance his case for reelection.
Mathematics Is an Edifice, Not a Toolbox, Notices of the AMS, v. 43, no. 10, October 1996.

Rota, Gian-carlo
We often hear that mathematics consists mainly of "proving theorems." Is a writer's job mainly that of "writing sentences?"
In preface to P. Davis and R. Hersh The Mathematical Experience, Boston: Birkhäuser, 1981.

Russell, Bertrand (1872-1970)
Calculus required continuity, and continuity was supposed to require the infinitely little; but nobody could discover what the infinitely little might be.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Russell, Bertrand (1872-1970)
"But," you might say, "none of this shakes my belief that 2 and 2 are 4." You are quite right, except in marginal cases -- and it is only in marginal cases that you are doubtful whether a certain animal is a dog or a certain length is less than a meter. Two must be two of something, and the proposition "2 and 2 are 4" is useless unless it can be applied. Two dogs and two dogs are certainly four dogs, but cases arise in which you are doubtful whether two of them are dogs. "Well, at any rate there are four animals," you may say. But there are microorganisms concerning which it is doubtful whether they are animals or plants. "Well, then living organisms," you say. But there are things of which it is doubtful whether they are living organisms or not. You will be driven into saying: "Two entities and two entities are four entities." When you have told me what you mean by "entity," we will resume the argument.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Rutherford, Ernest (1871-1937)
If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.
In N. T. J. Bailey the Mathematical Approach to Biology and Medicine, New York: Wiley, 1967.


return to top of page

Sarton, G.
The main duty of the historian of mathematics, as well as his fondest privilege, is to explain the humanity of mathematics, to illustrate its greatness, beauty and dignity, and to describe how the incessant efforts and accumulated genius of many generations have built up that magnificent monument, the object of our most legitimate pride as men, and of our wonder, humility and thankfulness, as individuals. The study of the history of mathematics will not make better mathematicians but gentler ones, it will enrich their minds, mellow their hearts, and bring out their finer qualities.

Sayers, Dorothy L.
The biologist can push it back to the original protist, and the chemist can push it back to the crystal, but none of them touch the real question of why or how the thing began at all. The astronomer goes back untold million of years and ends in gas and emptiness, and then the mathematician sweeps the whole cosmos into unreality and leaves one with mind as the only thing of which we have any immediate apprehension. Cogito ergo sum, ergo omnia esse videntur. All this bother, and we are no further than Descartes. Have you noticed that the astronomers and mathematicians are much the most cheerful people of the lot? I suppose that perpetually contemplating things on so vast a scale makes them feel either that it doesn't matter a hoot anyway, or that anything so large and elaborate must have some sense in it somewhere.
With R. Eustace, The Documents in the Case, New York: Harper and Row, 1930, p 54.

Shaw, J. B.
The mathematician is fascinated with the marvelous beauty of the forms he constructs, and in their beauty he finds everlasting truth.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Slaught, H.E.
...[E.H.] Moore ws presenting a paper on a highly technical topic to a large gathering of faculty and graduate students from all parts of the country. When half way through he discovered what seemed to be an error (though probably no one else in the room observed it). He stopped and re-examined the doubtful step for several minutes and then, convinced of the error, he abruptly dismissed the meeting -- to the astonishment of most of the audience. It was an evidence of intellectual courage as well as honesty and doubtless won for him the supreme admiration of every person in the group -- an admiration which was in no wise diminished, but rather increased, when at a later meeting he announced that after all he had been able to prove the step to be correct.
The American Mathematical Monthly, 40 (1933), 191-195.

Smith, David Eugene
One merit of mathematics few will deny: it says more in fewer words than any other science. The formula, e^iπ = -1 expressed a world of thought, of truth, of poetry, and of the religious spirit "God eternally geometrizes."
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Smith, Henry John Stephen (1826 - 1883)
[His toast:]
Pure mathematics, may it never be of any use to anyone.
In H. Eves Mathematical Circles Squared, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1972.

Smith, Henry John Stephen (1826-1883)
It is the peculiar beauty of this method, gentlemen, and one which endears it to the really scientific mind, that under no circumstance can it be of the smallest possible utility.
In H. Eves Mathematical Circles Squared, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1972.

Sylvester, J.J. (1814 - 1897)
Time was when all the parts of the subject were dissevered, when algebra, geometry, and arithmetic either lived apart or kept up cold relations of acquaintance confined to occasional calls upon one another; but that is now at an end; they are drawn together and are constantly becoming more and more intimately related and connected by a thousand fresh ties, and we may confidently look forward to a time when they shall form but one body with one soul.
Presidential Address to British Association, 1869.


return to top of page

Titchmarsh, E. C.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about mathematics is that it is so surprising. The rules which we make up at the beginning seem ordinary and inevitable, but it is impossible to foresee their consequences. These have only been found out by long study, extending over many centuries. Much of our knowledge is due to a comparatively few great mathematicians such as Newton, Euler, Gauss, or Riemann; few careers can have been more satisfying than theirs. They have contributed something to human thought even more lasting than great literature, since it is independent of language.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.


return to top of page

Ulam, Stanislaw
In many cases, mathematics is an escape from reality. The mathematician finds his own monastic niche and happiness in pursuits that are disconnected from external affairs. Some practice it as if using a drug. Chess sometimes plays a similar role. In their unhappiness over the events of this world, some immerse themselves in a kind of self-sufficiency in mathematics. (Some have engaged in it for this reason alone.)
Adventures of a Mathematician, Scribner's, New York, 1976.


return to top of page

Voltaire (1694-1778)
He who has heard the same thing told by 12,000 eye-witnesses has only 12,000 probabilities, which are equal to one strong probability, which is far from certain.
In J. R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.


return to top of page

Weil, Andre (1906 -?)
Every mathematician worthy of the name has experienced ... the state of lucid exaltation in which one thought succeeds another as if miraculously... this feeling may last for hours at a time, even for days. Once you have experienced it, you are eager to repeat it but unable to do it at will, unless perhaps by dogged work...
The Apprenticeship of a Mathematician.

Weyl, Hermann (1885 - 1955)
Our federal income tax law defines the tax y to be paid in terms of the income x; it does so in a clumsy enough way by pasting several linear functions together, each valid in another interval or bracket of income. An archeologist who, five thousand years from now, shall unearth some of our income tax returns together with relics of engineering works and mathematical books, will probably date them a couple of centuries earlier, certainly before Galileo and Vieta.
The Mathematical Way of Thinking, an address given at the Bicentennial Conference at the University of Pennsylvania, 1940.

Whitehead, Alfred North (1861 - 1947)
The science of pure mathematics ... may claim to be the most original creation of the human spirit.
Science and the Modern World.

Whitehead, Alfred North (1861 - 1947)
Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Whitehead, Alfred North (1861 - 1947)
In modern times the belief that the ultimate explanation of all things was to be found in Newtonian mechanics was an adumbration of the truth that all science, as it grows towards perfection, becomes mathematical in its ideas.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Whitehead, Alfred North (1861 - 1947)
I will not go so far as to say that to construct a history of thought without profound study of the mathematical ideas of successive epochs is like omitting Hamlet from the play which is named after him. That would be claiming too much. But it is certainly analogous to cutting out the part of Ophelia. This simile is singularly exact. For Ophelia is quite essential to the play, she is very charming ... and a little mad.
W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger The Viking Book of Aphorisms, New York: Viking Press, 1966.

Wordsworth, William (1770 - 1850)
[Mathematics] is an independent world
Created out of pure intelligence.

return to top of page

Note: These quotes are only a subset of those contained on the Furman University quotations server. (You can get there from my links page.) At their website, they have about 20 times as many quotes. After reading through every last quote they had, I selected those which were most representative of the facets of mathematics that I am trying to convey on this web site.

Return to Mathematrix