Fascinating Mathematical People. Interviews and Memoirs.

Donald J. Albers and Gerald L. Alexanderson, Editors
Princeton University Press
Short description: 

This is the third book in a series. It consists of sixteen biographical sketches of relevant contemporary mathematicians. The sketches are mainly developed through interviews, and illustrated with interesting, often surprising, pictures.

MSC main category: 
01 History and biography
MSC category: 

The editors present here a new collection of profiles of important mathematicians, including two Fields Medal winners. They are five women and eleven men, whose lives and achievements of various and quite different styles make them truly appealing and worth to know. They happen to be mathematicians, which of course is in some cases the main point, but not necessarily. Anyway, their distinct backgrounds, motivations to do Mathematics (sometimes not the first option), their private interests and ways to reach their goals, their views of places and colleagues, mostly explained by themselves with passion, is a reading to recommend. As a hint of the surprises hidden every now and then in the pages of this book, let me mention that among the protagonists there is a practicing dentist at Beverly Hills, a distinguished magician performer, a serious top specialist on The Beatles… Well understood, this is a book to discontinuous reading: one picks it at leisure, takes a look at the contents and chooses what to read. No order is required, nor any systematic dedication, but in the end one sure will read it all..., contrarywise, how to be sure not to miss the interesting parts?

Finally, I quote two excerpts (to be found somewhere in the book):

So much for too much rigor too early? Yes. Take Euler. I think he thought he knew perfectly well what a real number was. He could calculate with them; he could do anything. I don’t think he was in any danger of making mathematical errors because he didn’t understand properly what a real number was.

• For eight centuries, universities have been about teaching. You have to teach your research. Teaching of your research is the alpha and omega of academic life. It’s been true since the first university was established, even if it has sometimes been forgotten.

Jesús M. Ruiz


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