Paul Erdös, The Man Who Loves Numbers


I have recently learned about the life of Paul Erdös.

Paul Erdös was a highly eccentric mathematician whose existence could be defined by the pursuit of math.

Here are some excerpts from a review of the book: The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth :

Click here for full article.

“Erdös first did mathematics at the age of three, but for the last twenty-five years of his life, since the death of his mother, he put in nineteen-hour days, keeping himself fortified with 10 to 20 milligrams of Benzedrine or Ritalin, strong espresso, and caffeine tablets. “A mathematician,” Erdös was fond of saying, “is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.” When friends urged him to slow down, he always had the same response: “There’ll be plenty of time to rest in the grave.”

“To communicate with Erdös you had to learn his language. “When we met,” said Martin Gardner, the mathematical essayist, “his first question was `When did you arrive?’ I looked at my watch, but Graham whispered to me that it was Erdös’s way of asking, `When were you born?'” Erdös often asked the same question another way: “When did the misfortune of birth overtake you?” His language had a special vocabulary–not just “the SF” and “epsilon” but also “bosses” (women), “slaves” (men), “captured” (married), “liberated” (divorced), “recaptured” (remarried), “noise” (music), “poison” (alcohol), “preaching” (giving a mathematics lecture), “Sam” (the United States), and “Joe” (the Soviet Union). When he said someone had “died,” Erdös meant that the person had stopped doing mathematics. When he said someone had “left,” the person had died.”


Some YouTube videos that catch a glimpse of the man’s eccentricity:
Note: SF or “Supreme Fascist” refers to “God” or “the higher power”.

Paul Erdös is introducing himself:

Paul Erdös – SF means Supreme Facist

Paul Erdös – The Purpose of Life

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