meta - January 18, 2023

Yeah, a true intellectual

“Verena said no as politely as she could. She wanted Alfred as a teacher and a friend, not a lover... Once, when she refused and he asked her to be specific as to why she found him physically unappealing, she dropped her guard and said that she didn’t like his hands and didn’t like him to touch her."

Yeah, shame on me. Paragraphs like the one above are what I remember from mathematicians’ biographies. What an intellectual, right?

I am not sure how I ended up reading mathematicians’ biographies, but I remember the first one was the autobiography of Bertrand Russell. You know him, Russell was a logician, mathematician, philosopher, and many other things. Was I interested in logic? Mathematics? Philosophy? Well, to a certain extent. It would be nice to say I was obsessed with logic and math. Or with philosophy. But I was not. You know, the parts related to math were interesting, but other parts were ... more interesting.

After Russell, there came the biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein. And you know, the parts related to philosophy were interesting, but other parts were ... more interesting. It is disappointing, but what can you do.

Then there were the biographies of Alfred Tarski, L.E.J. Brouwer, David Hilbert, John von Neumann, Alan Turing, Kurt Gödel, Norbert Wiener, Richard Courant. And many others. Do I really have nothing else to do? And just to let you know – before Russell I had read close to zero biographies. I think I read Michelangelo’s and Leonardo da Vinci’s biographies two decades ago. For years, I’d been interested only in fiction.

And what do I remember from these books? Math? Philosophy? No, my dear friend. I remember how Alfred Tarski was rejected by a woman supposedly because of his short fingers. I remember how L.E.J. Brouwer was walking naked in his backyard. Yeah, I am an intellectual.

But eventually, something surprising happened. I started to be interested in math too. True, years ago I’d studied math and somehow even graduated, but I had not been terribly interested in it. And then, after all these biographies, I restarted learning math. What you will find on these pages is my mathematical journey that started a couple of years ago.

However, I am not twenty or twenty-five anymore. I have three daughters. I ferociously read books that have absolutely nothing to do with math and I want to keep doing that. So, expect some non-mathy things on these pages too, my dear friend. For example... yes, short fingers.

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