Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Public Image of a Mathematician

From John Dawson -- a professor emeritus of mathematics at the Penn State York campus and well-known for his publications in mathematical logic, often focusing on the life and work of Kurt Godel -- a poem on a topic that this blog visits from time to time, portraits of mathematicians.

       Public Image     by John W. Dawson, Jr.

       I'm not an accountant.
       Mine doesn't always balance either.
       What do I do then?
       On good days
       I prove theorems; 
       And then,
       I also teach.
       What's that you say?
       An easy job?  A sinecure?
       Well, tell me then,
       Why didn't you . . . ?
       Oh, I see.
       You always hated it.
       Lots of people do.
       It's so hard.
       Too precise.
       All that calculation.
       And you became so terribly nervous
       Speaking in front of a class.
       Then too
       The pay is low.
       But perhaps that's as it should be.
       After all,
       Think of the prestige!

Dawson's poem first appeared in The Mathematical Intelligencer 12: 1 (1990), 13.
A poem of mine, similar in spirit to Dawson's is found here.  Other poems about mathematicians may be found at these links:  28 January 2011  and, in 2010:  December 8April 14, April 15, April 26, April 28, May 4, May 14, and  July 20.

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