Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A man with nothing to prove

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[Srinivasa] Ramanujan did what he wished to do, went his own way. It was only later, after he had indulged in an orgy of mathematical creation, that he might wake up and realize how far he had strayed from the common run of human intercourse. Only then might he begin to care, sometimes painfully much, how others thought of him…

Ramanujan was a man for whom, as Littlewood put it, “the clear-cut idea of what is meant by proof…he perhaps did not possess at all”; once he had become satisfied of a theorem’s truth, he had scant interest in proving it to others. The word proof, here, applies in its mathematical sense. And yet, constructed more loosely, Ramanujan truly had nothing to prove.

Robert Kanigel, The Man Who Knew Infinity

Written by nevalalee

June 18, 2017 at 7:30 am

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