Blog on Math Blogs

Mathematical Digest


Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Proof Positive": Review of Two Biographies of Paul Erdos. Reviewed byRobert Matthews. New Scientist, 1 August 1998, pages 40-41.

"Planning an Infinite Stay": Review of The Man Who Loved Only Numbers,by Paul Hoffman. Reviewed by James Alexander. New York Times BookReview, 27 September 1998, page 33.

These articles review two recent biographies of the legendary mathematicianPaul Erdos, who died in 1996: The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, by PaulHoffman, and My Brain is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos,by Bruce Schecter. Erdos was a famously eccentric and prolific mathematicianwho, without a permanent home, traveled constantly to collaborate with hundredsof colleagues all over the world. The New Scientist reviewer prefersSchechter's book, which he says is better written, has better structure, andshows better judgment than the Hoffman book. However, he also says that bothbiographies "will provide rich entertainment---plus some insight into thatage-old question: what on Earth do professional mathematicians do all day?"The New York Times reviewer appreciates the Hoffman biography for theway it "opens doors on a world and characters that are often invisible."

--- Allyn Jackson