A Mathematician’s Apology by G. H. Hardy

By G. H. Hardy

G. H. Hardy was once one in every of this century's best mathematical thinkers, popular between his contemporaries as a 'real mathematician ... the purest of the pure'. He used to be additionally, as C. P. Snow recounts in his Foreword, 'unorthodox, eccentric, radical, able to speak about anything'. This 'apology', written in 1940, bargains an excellent and interesting account of arithmetic as a great deal greater than a technology; whilst it was once first released, Graham Greene hailed it along Henry James's notebooks as 'the top account of what it used to be prefer to be an artistic artist'. C. P. Snow's Foreword offers sympathetic and witty insights into Hardy's existence, with its wealthy shop of anecdotes pertaining to his collaboration with the intense Indian mathematician Ramanujan, his idiosyncrasies, and his ardour for cricket. it is a specified account of the fascination of arithmetic and of 1 of its so much compelling exponents nowa days.

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All this, of course, tends to reinforce the case against science. On the other hand, even if we press this case to the utmost, it is hardly possible to maintain seriously that the evil done by science is not altogether outweighed by the good. For example, if ten million lives were lost in every war, the net effect of science would still have been to increase the average length of life. In short, my §28 is much too ‘sentimental’. I do not dispute the justice of these criticisms, but, for the reasons which I state in my preface, I have found it impossible to meet them in my text, and content myself with this acknowledgement.

So a real mathematician has his conscience clear; there is nothing to be set against any value his work may have; mathematics is, as I said at Oxford, a ‘harmless and innocent’ occupation. The trivial mathematics, on the other hand, has many applications in war. The gunnery experts and aeroplane designers, for example, could not do their work without it. And the general effect of these applications is plain: mathematics facilitates (if not so obviously as physics or chemistry) modern, scientific, ‘total’ war.

It is not so clear as it might seem that this is to be regretted, since there are two sharply contrasted views about modern scientific war. The first and the most obvious is that the effect of science on war is merely to magnify its horror, both by increasing the sufferings of the minority who have to fight and by extending them to other classes. This is the most natural and orthodox view. But there is a very different view which seems also quite tenable, and which has been stated with great force by Haldane in Callinicus18.

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