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G. H. Hardy (1877-1947)

G. H. Hardy (1877-1947)

G. H. Hardy (1877-1947)

1997 marks the 50-th anniversary of the death of Godfrey Harold Hardy (born February 7, 1877; died December 1, 1947),one of the leading mathematicians of the first half of the twentiethcentury. His work ranged over many areas of analysis, but tended to beconcentrated in areas related to number theory. Much of it was done in hisfamous collaborations with Littlewood and with Ramanujan.

© Birkhäuser 1987

This photo, taken by George Pólya, is undoubtedly the most well-knownphotograph of Hardy. It appears in The Pólya Picture Album:Encounters of a Mathematician, edited by G. L. Alexanderson,Birkhäuser 1987, and is used here with permission.

Sources of biographical information about Hardy include:

  • The entry on Hardy in the History of Mathematics Archive
  • The obituary by E. C. Titchmarsh in Vol. 1 of the Collected Papers of G.H. Hardy, published by Cambridge University Press. (This photograph isthe frontispiece to this volume.) In a slightlycondensed form, this obituary also appears in: E. C. Titchmarsh, Obituary: Godfrey Harold Hardy, J. London Math. Soc. 25 (1950), 82-101.
This photograph is most famous as it appears on the front cover ofA Mathematician's Apology, G. H. Hardy, Cambridge University Press.This book, much beloved by mathematicians, is Hardy's answer to the questions
Why is it really worthwhile to make a serious study of mathematics? What isthe proper justification of a mathematician's life?
Actually, this book is impossible to briefly summarize here. Suffice it to saythat it is a magnificent description of what mathematics is and what it is todo mathematics (and, for that matter, it provides insights into creativeactivity in any field), and it cannot be recommended too highly. It also hasa lengthy foreword by C. P. Snow, worth reading in its own right.

Hardy's Collected Papers comprise 7 volumes. The first 6 consist of histechnical works, but the last is devoted to his non-technical writings,including many articles on the teaching and communication of mathematics, allwritten in the superb style that one would expect from the author ofA Mathematician's Apology. As opposed to his theorems, which areincontrovertibly true, his opinions will not meet with unanimous assent, butthey are well worth considering.

- Steven Weintraub