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If I were to ask this: Which quote by a "Mathematician" do you like, then what would be your answer!

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closed as off topic by BBischof, kennytm, Grigory M, Akhil Mathew, Isaac Aug 10 '10 at 14:53

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I have voted to close as off-topic. – BBischof Aug 9 '10 at 22:31
That being said "mathematical apocrypha" is a really awesome book, and I recommend it. – BBischof Aug 9 '10 at 22:32
Doesn't this already exist at MathOverflow? – Kevin H. Lin Aug 10 '10 at 4:24
@Kevin: MO and math.SE are two distinct entities. Unless one can migrate questions between them, whether a question already exists on the other site hardly matter. – kennytm Aug 10 '10 at 6:45
@Kevin: Most of the ones on MO are too hard to understand :-( – Casebash Aug 10 '10 at 7:33

12 Answers 12

up vote 14 down vote accepted

"If only I had the theorems! Then I should find the proofs easily enough."

$\quad\quad$ ~ Riemann

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:-D Well, he had the theorem and not the proof!! you know what I mean :D – Pratik Deoghare Aug 10 '10 at 6:31

"It's like if you want to be a good pianist, you have to do a lot of scales and a lot of practice, and a lot of that is kind of boring, it's work. But you need to do that before you can really be very expressive and really play beautiful music. You have to go through that phase of practice and drill."

$\quad\quad$ ~ Terry Tao

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"Young man, in mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them."

$\quad\quad$ ~ John von Neumann

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If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants

$\quad\quad$ ~ Sir Issac Newton

If only because of its lesser known interpretation. The above quote is from a letter by Newton to Robert Hooke, a man born with a severe stoop who criticized Newton for having stolen his theory of optics.

Newton's response, below the waterline, can be seen as saying "I didn't steal optics from you, shorty!" Hiding such snideness in a concession to modesty, even if terribly mean and apocryphal as an interpretation, is pretty stunning...

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I'd probably go with this nice one from Richard Askey:

If things are nice there is probably a good reason why they are nice: and if you do not know at least one reason for this good fortune, then you still have work to do.

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"Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos quadratoquadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet."

$\quad\quad$ ~ Pierre de Fermat

"I have discovered a truly marvelous proof that it is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second into two like powers. This margin is too narrow to contain it."

$\quad\quad$ ~ Translated Source

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Probably the best part is "This margin is too narrow to contain it." – Ismael Aug 10 '10 at 0:11

In translation from German:

"We must know, we will know."

$\quad\quad$ ~ David Hilbert

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"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."

$\quad\quad$ ~ Paul Erdős (or Alfréd Rényi)

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"A comathematician is a device for turning cotheorems into fee." -- anon – Patrick Stevens Aug 21 '15 at 16:45

"Mathematics is one of the few disciplines that teaches us about the power of thought as distinct from the power of authority."

This appears on my university's department website, many of us attribute it to our late chair Klaus Fischer.

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I didn't know that – anonymous Aug 9 '10 at 22:10

This quote is one which I like a lot:

"Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare."

$\quad\quad$ ~ Rene Descartes

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"There is no branch of mathematics, however abstract, which may not some day be applied to phenomena of the real world."

$\quad\quad$ ~ Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky

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"The only advice we offer to new researchers is read! read! read! many papers with complete proofs."

$\quad\quad$ ~ Iwaniec & Kowalski.

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