Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mathematicians are NOT entitled to arrogance

Godfrey Harold “G. H.” Hardy (1877 – 1947) was an English mathematician known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis. One of Hardy's lasting contributions is his 1940 essay, ;A Mathematician's Apology, which offers his self-portrait of the mind of a working mathematician. Here, written in lines and stanzas -- as a found poem -- is the opening paragraph of Hardy's essay:

     From  A Mathematician’s Apology      by G. H. Hardy

     It is a melancholy experience
     for a professional mathematician
     to find himself writing about mathematics.

     The function of a mathematician
     is to do something, to prove new theorems,
     to add to mathematics, and not to talk

     about what he and other mathematicians
     have done. Statesmen despise publicists, painters
     despise art-critics, and physiologists,

     physicists, or mathematicians have
     usually similar feelings; there is no scorn
     more profound, or on the whole more justifiable,

     than that of the men who make for the men
     who explain. Exposition, criticism,
     appreciation, is work for second-rate minds.

Goodbye, Hardy.     Hello,world!
Based on recent research concerning multiple intelligences, it is no longer reasonable to hold Hardy's view of the mathematician's mind as superior to others -- and yet math classes still are full of (or avoided by) students who have been put-down by their differently-smart teachers. Too often we do not understand the full worth of those unlike ourselves. Moreover, in today's complex world, it is likely that the explainers are the ones most necessary. Lack of action to curb climate change has, for example, been linked to scientists' poor presentations of evidence -- members of the general public need more-clear and more-convincing explanations that real problems exist.

1 comment:

  1. As someone who loves math and poetry, I'll have to say it's a neat poem!