Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Wasn't there a mathematician who was convinced that "god" was out to get him? When he was travelling by sea he would write a friend a letter claiming that he had finally proved a difficult theorem (even though he hadn't). His reasoning was that he would always reach his destination safely since god couldn't stand to let him die on the dangerous voyage while leaving the rest of the world thinking that he had actually come up with the proof... There was also some story about rainy days and sports games, but I can't remember.

Who was this? I tried searching with Google, but couldn't find anything and didn't know exactly what to search for...

share|cite|improve this question
Sounds like a bizarre mix of Hardy (the atheist who sent the letter) and Erdos (who fought against the supreme fascist). – quanta May 6 '11 at 20:40
Story goes that G.H. Hardy, an avowed atheist, was about to embark on a sea voyage in stormy weather; so he sent a postcard that said "Have solved the Riemann Hypothesis" to a friend, claiming later that God would not let him die letting everyone think he had proven it. Not the same thing as "god was out to get him". – Arturo Magidin May 6 '11 at 20:41
@Arturo: but how was he an atheist if he was convinced that "God" would not let him die? I mean for him to write the letter, he must have thought that there was a god, right? – ghshtalt May 6 '11 at 20:46
It's called, I believe, "a joke." As in, didn't really think the postcard would do anything except give him a great story later. Hardy is the one who said, many times and quite expressly, that he was an atheist (i.e., I didn't pull that out of thin air). – Arturo Magidin May 6 '11 at 20:47
oh ok... well thanks all for clearing that up :) – ghshtalt May 6 '11 at 20:48
up vote 25 down vote accepted

You look for G.H. Hardy.

Hardy was known for his eccentricities. He could not endure having his photograph taken and only five snapshots are known to exist. He also hated mirrors and his first action on entering any hotel room was to cover any mirror with a towel. He always played an amusing game of trying to fool God (which is also rather strange since he claimed all his life not be believe in God). For example, during a trip to Denmark he sent back a postcard claiming that he had proved the Riemann hypothesis. He reasoned that God would not allow the boat to sink on the return journey and give him the same fame that Fermat had achieved with his "last theorem".

Another example of his trying to fool God was when he went to cricket matches he would take what he called his "anti-God battery". This consisted of thick sweaters, an umbrella, mathematical papers to referee, student examination scripts etc. His theory was that God would think that he expected rain to come so that he could then get on with his work. Since Hardy thought that God would then have the sun shine all day to spite him, he would be able to enjoy the cricket in perfect sunshine.

(from )

share|cite|improve this answer
He claimed to not believe in god and he tried to fool god. Maybe he was trolling. – Voyska Sep 8 '12 at 4:08

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.