I believe that mathematical reality lies outside us, that our function is to discover or observe it, and that the theorems which we prove, and which we describe grandiloquently as our “creations,” are simply the notes of our observations.
It is not worth an intelligent man’s time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.
A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns.
A person’s first duty, a young person’s at any rate, is to be ambitious, and the noblest ambition is that of leaving behind something of permanent value.
I have never done anything ‘useful’. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world… Judged by all practical standards, the value of my mathematical life is nil; and outside mathematics it is trivial anyhow. I have just one chance of escaping a verdict of complete triviality, that I may be judged to have created something worth creating. And that I have created something is undeniable: the question is about its value.
Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.
For any serious purpose, intelligence is a very minor gift.
I remember once going to see him [Ramanujan] when he was lying ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi-cab No. 1729, and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavourable omen. “No,” he replied, “it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as a sum of two cubes in two different ways.”
What we do may be small, but it has a certain character of permanence; and to have produced anything of the slightest permanent interest, whether it be a copy of verses or a geometrical theorem, is to have done something utterly beyond the powers of the vast majority of men.
Perhaps five or even ten per cent of men can do something rather well. It is a tiny minority who can do anything really well, and the number of men who can do two things well is negligible. If a man has any genuine talent, he should be ready to make almost any sacrifice in order to cultivate it to the full.
Good work is not done by ‘humble’ men
If I could prove by logic that you would die in five minutes, I should be sorry you were going to die, but my sorrow would be very much mitigated by pleasure in the proof.
No mathematician should ever allow him to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man’s game. … Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty. There have been men who have done great work later; … [but] I do not know of a single instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty. … A mathematician may still be competent enough at sixty, but it is useless to expect him to have original ideas.
A man who sets out to justify his existence and his activities has to distinguish two different questions. The first is whether the work which he does is worth doing; and the second is why he does it (whatever its value may be).
Sometimes one has to say difficult things, but one ought to say them as simply as one knows how.
When the world is mad, a mathematician may find in mathematics an incomparable anodyne. For mathematics is, of all the arts and sciences, the most austere and the most remote, and a mathematician should be of all men the one who can most easily take refuge where, as Bertrand Russell says, “one at least of our nobler impulses can best escape from the dreary exile of the actual world.”
They [formulae 1.10 – 1.12 of Ramanujan] must be true because, if they were not true, no one would have had the imagination to invent them.
I am interested in mathematics only as a creative art.
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.
Asked if he believes in one G-d, a mathematician answered: “Yes, up to isomorphism”.
If intellectual curiosity, professional pride, and ambition are the dominant incentives to research, then assuredly no one has a fairer chance of gratifying them than a mathematician.
Real mathematics must be justified as art if it can be justified at all.
The case for my life… is this: that I have added something to knowledge, and helped others to add more
A science or an art may be said to be “useful” if its development increases, even indirectly, the material well-being and comfort of men, it promotes happiness, using that word in a crude and commonplace way.
Cricket is the only game where you are playing against eleven of the other side and ten of your own.