Monday, September 19, 2016

A rumor (in verse) about Alfred Nobel

 Before the poem a bit of history about its source of publication:
     The Humanistic Mathematics Network Newsletter (HMNN) was founded by Alvin White (1925-2009) of Harvey Mudd College in the summer of 1987. The Newsletter was later renamed The Humanistic Mathematics Network Journal (HMNJ). The last issue of the HMNJ was published in 2004 -- and a current, related (online, open-accesss) journal is the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (JHM).  Recently the digital archive of the full run of the HMNN/HMNJ (1987-2004) has become available at this link.
      I was an active participant in HMNJ  -- contributing articles and serving for several years as poetry editor -- and have enjoyed browsing the archives.  One of my articles, "Mathematics and Poetry: Isolated or Integrated" is available here (Issue 6, 1991).   
There's lots more!
     Back in Issue 3 of HMNJ (from 1988) I found these entertaining lines from topologist and math historian William Dunham -- setting to rhyme an an apocryphal tale of why there is no Nobel prize in mathematics.

       For Whom Nobel Tolls    by William Dunham  

       It is well-known that Nobel Prizes
       Come in many shapes and sizes.
       But one is missing from the list --
       The Nobel Math Prize does not exist.  

       There is a widely held suspicion
       That might account for this omission:
       Perhaps it's jealousy that's to blame
       For mathematicians' absence from the Nobel game.

       For Alfred Nobel had become aware
       Of his wife's impassioned love affair
       With a mathematician, who held her tight
       And thought that she was DYNAMITE.

       Then Nobel, reacting as expected,
       Vowed, "Mathematicians shall be neglected!
       And if it's Sweden they want to see,
       Let them take a tour and pay the fee!"

       O the lack of a Math Prize is indeed a curse,
       Yet I have to admit it could have been worse --
       What if Madame Nobel's infamous tryst
       Had been instead with a pacifist ?

Thanks, Bill Dunham, for this and for all you have researched and written about the history of mathematics -- especially the material about my favorite mathematical ancestor, Leonhard Euler (1707-1783).

1 comment:

  1. Yesterday and today there has been news of the most recent Nobel Prize winners -- and among the news items I found this one in The Japan Times that addresses the question of why there is no Nobel Prize in Mathematics: