Lobachevsky is quoted in many places to have once written (said?) "There is no branch of mathematics, no matter how abstract, which may not someday be applied to phenomena of the real world." (In the original: Нет ни одной области математики, как бы абстрактна она ни была, которая когда-нибудь не окажется применимой к явлениям действительного мира.) My question is: where can this be found in his work? I am not interested in being told about a book from the 1980s that has this in a list of quotes, so please don't waste time telling me about sources other than Lobachevsky's.

I did find online a copy of some of his collected works, but the file wasn't in a form that allowed a text search by computer.

  • $\begingroup$ Thought I could be lazy and did a search in books.google.com with that quote and the author but didn't get any results. There was 399 books with that quote in it, maybe if no one knows it offhand you can look at them to see if they cite the original source of the quote. Good luck! $\endgroup$ – Lostsoul Jan 3 '12 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Lostsoul: I looked in a lot of places using Google and Yandex. At some point I just gave up with that; all the books love to give quotes but they don't bother saying where the quotes come from, which is kind of annoying. $\endgroup$ – KCd Jan 3 '12 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ Ahhh those jerks :-) $\endgroup$ – Lostsoul Jan 3 '12 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ Why does it matter? We all know Lobachevsky plagiarized his best work from Tom Lehrer.... (Do I need to add a smiley face, or will people get that I am joking?) $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Jan 18 '12 at 0:13

The list of reference numbers for the site linked by Marcus Barnes is here. This gives us the reference:

-115. Зенкевич И. Г. Не интегралом единым. Тула, 1971. 136 с.

It appears to be a collection of quotes, and according to this site, it has a list of original references at the back.

  • $\begingroup$ That's super, thanks! I had seen the link Список цитируемой литературы at the bottom of the URL that Marcus gave, but when I clicked on it I didn't get sent to a page of references at that site. It would be great if someone who has easy access to that book can tell us what it says about the Lobachevsky quote on page 117. $\endgroup$ – KCd Jan 7 '12 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ The other Lobachevsky quote I mentioned in a comment to an answer by Marcus is on p. 133 of the book Депман И. Я. История арифметики. Москва, 1959. 423 с., so it would be nice if someone with access to that book could tell me where that quote comes from too. $\endgroup$ – KCd Jan 7 '12 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ This is from 1965's edition of Depman's book, p.127, I did not see reference for that quote there: Французский математик Ламз, состоявший ряд лет профессопрофессором Петербургского института инженеров путей сообщения (начало XIX в.), выражал уверенность в том, что в будущем «теория чисел сделается столь же необходимой для физики, как и анализ бесконечно малых». Scan of p.127 $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 12 '12 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Martin, thanks for your comment. A student I know in St. Petersburg found Depman's book and sent me a scan of the relevant page. It says the quotation is from Lame (Ламэ, not Ламз) rather than Lobachevsky. The student hasn't yet obtained a copy of the book by Zenkevich which is supposed to give a source for Lobachevsky's quote in my original question. $\endgroup$ – KCd Jan 17 '12 at 6:03

OK. I was curious about this too. Some sleuthing on my part using Google Translate has provided a hint. I found this page:


It cites Lobachevskii's collected works: "op. at 115, section 117". His collected works were edited by V. F. Kagan. Kagan also wrote a book: "N. Lobachevsky and his contribution to science." We need to verify this citation, but I don't have direct access to Lobachevsky's collected works.

Anyway, let's hope this hint allows up to nail down the exact citation for this wonderful quote.

Clarification: My suspicion is that the citation is referring to Lobachevskii's collected works. The "op." usually refers to "opus", that is, an authors' (edited) collected works. To verify the citation, we will need to check Lobachevsky's collected works, which were edited by V. F. Kagan. Unfortunately, I do not have access to a copy at this time.

  • $\begingroup$ That's a nice find. How did you get to that site? The citation means, I believe, "cited according to ref. 115, page 117" (с = страница = page). Now the question is: how to figure out what their numerical list of references means? Another interesting Lobachevsky quote on that site is matematiku.ru/…, which says "In the future, number theory will be as necessary for physics as calculus." $\endgroup$ – KCd Jan 7 '12 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ It's not clear to me that "reference 115" is necessarily from Lobachevsky's own work; it could just be some other random reference that happened to have this quote in it. $\endgroup$ – KCd Jan 7 '12 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ And now when you do a Google search on Lobachevsky's quote this is the first page that comes up... $\endgroup$ – KCd Jan 7 '12 at 4:52

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