Mathematicians Tell Stories

On the occasion of its centennial, the Royal Spanish Math Society has published a commemorative issue of their Revista. Mathematicians describe some early influential encounters with mathematics.

J. J. Kohn describes early encounters with Norbert Wiener (photos from math.harvard.edu and museum.mit.edu). In his last year as an undergraduate at MIT, he took Wiener’s course on Fourier Series and Integrals. After a highly technical first lecture, Wiener spent most of the second examining each integer from 1 to 100 to determine whether it was prime, and then suddenly said that the sum of the reciprocals of all the primes “clearly diverges because of its arithmetical character.” Kohn admits that “over half a century later, I am still puzzled.” Another day Wiener described his latest detective story, a murder mystery in which all clues were mathematical. Kohn also describes Wiener’s bumbling attempts at chess.

Kohn also talks about Warren Ambrose, his talk at the Unitarian Church in Boston on “Why I am an atheist,” and his easy survival of a beating by police rifle butts by adapting to its rhythm.

One Comment

  1. David:

    Is this issue online yet?

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