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A Mathematician's Apology (Canto) [Paperback]

G.H. Hardy
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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A Mathematician's Apology (Canto Classics) A Mathematician's Apology (Canto Classics)
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Book Description

31 Jan 1992 Canto
G. H. Hardy was one of this century's finest mathematical thinkers, renowned among his contemporaries as a 'real mathematician … the purest of the pure'. He was also, as C. P. Snow recounts in his Foreword, 'unorthodox, eccentric, radical, ready to talk about anything'. This 'apology', written in 1940 as his mathematical powers were declining, offers a brilliant and engaging account of mathematics as very much more than a science; when it was first published, Graham Greene hailed it alongside Henry James's notebooks as 'the best account of what it was like to be a creative artist'. C. P. Snow's Foreword gives sympathetic and witty insights into Hardy's life, with its rich store of anecdotes concerning his collaboration with the brilliant Indian mathematician Ramanujan, his aphorisms and idiosyncrasies, and his passion for cricket. This is a unique account of the fascination of mathematics and of one of its most compelling exponents in modern times.


Product details

  • Paperback: 153 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (31 Jan 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521427061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521427067
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 13.9 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 204,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Generations of readers, both in and out of mathematics, have read Apology as one of the most eloquent descriptions in our language of the pleasure and power of mathematical invention.' The New Yorker

'Great mathematicians rarely write about themselves or about their work, and few of them would have the literary gift to compose an essay of such charm, candour and insight … a manifesto for mathematics itself.' The Guardian

'Hardy's book is carefully reasoned, beautifully written and very stimulating; … it can profitably be read by anyone.' New Scientist

'A beautiful book written by a leading mathematician of the time.' BBC Focus

Book Description

G. H. Hardy was one of this century's finest mathematical thinkers, renowned among his contemporaries as a 'real mathematician … the purest of the pure'. This is a unique account of the fascination of mathematics and of one of its most compelling exponents in modern times. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
IT was a perfectly ordinary night at Christ's high table, except that Hardy was dining as a guest. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No need to apologize for this 27 Nov 2008
By Sphex
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Exposition, criticism, appreciation, is work for second-rate minds." Already, in the first paragraph, G. H. Hardy is deploring the task of writing about mathematics in his characteristically forthright fashion. It's just as well that by the time we begin the Apology we have been softened up by C. P. Snow's excellent introduction and potted biography. Clearly, this first-rate book has attracted an altogether better class of reviewer, the self-effacing type not given to hissy fits on being reminded of their place in the intellectual pantheon.

"I had of course found at school, as every future mathematician does, that I could often do things much better than my teachers". Hardy's later achievements and his matter-of-fact style ensure that this is neither preening vanity nor a pompous boast. A professional mathematician might also agree that the "function of a mathematician is to do something" and not to talk about it. Mathematics as an active pursuit, being cleverer than your maths teacher - these count as revelations to ordinary mortals, even those of us who weren't too bad at maths. Then, and before any unsuspecting non-mathematician can run for cover, Hardy sets about proving "two of the famous theorems of Greek mathematics". There is really nothing to be scared of, even for the most equation-phobic humanities graduate. It's the ideas and the arguments that link them that matter, and they are not difficult to follow. In tracing the steps of Euclid and Pythagoras we are tracing patterns of thought that have lasted two thousand years, and we too can directly appreciate their beauty, and see for ourselves in a small way that a "mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Books in One 27 Dec 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a delightful read. The foreword by C.P. Snow takes up approximately one-third of the book, and is effectively a short biography of Hardy. It follows his life from late Victorian public school, to Trinity at Cambridge, then to New College Oxford, and then back to Cambridge. His initial decision to go to Cambridge came after reading “A Fellow of Trinity” by “Alan St Aubyn” – this is apparently not one of the world’s greatest works of literature, but I just have to read it now to see what was in it that could inspire him so strongly!
CP Snow paints a delightful picture of the life of an honest, eccentric, and intellectually gifted man – a life revolving around academia in general, mathematics, cricket, radical ideas and some superb eccentricities. Hardy was suspicious of all things mechanical – “If you fancy yourself at the telephone, there is one in the other room”. This book is worth reading for the foreword alone.
Hardy’s work then follows, written in a series of short, pithy chapters, a bit too long to be called aphorisms, but each almost stands alone in placing an argument, crafted in step-by-step fashion, as you would expect of a mathematician. Now, maybe my interpretation of Hardy’s words is different to others, but for me, although he concentrates on the rights or wrongs of devoting one’s life to pure mathematics, discussing how “worthwhile” mathematics is as a profession, I think you can read this as an argument on the merits or otherwise of any human endeavour. He basically concludes that it is far better to exercise to the full whatever talent one has, than do undistinguished work in other fields. There’s more depth to it than that of course, all very readable, and an interesting set of views for those faced with an awkward crossroads in life!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Apology in order 6 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This work is often cited in popular books about mathematics so when I saw it on Amazon I ordered it to see what it was all about.

It is an interesting, but heavily dated, justification of a boffin's life in the Ivory Tower, written with disdain for everything and everyone who engages in lower pursuits (which include "trivial" mathematics that may have practical application). Hardy almost wallows in the uselessness of number theory (and relativity and quantum mechanics). Mind you, this was written in 1940, i.e. when humanity was on the threshold of the atomic and computer age. Amazon and places like it would not exist if it weren't for the application of number theory to secure on-line financial transactions. I wonder what Hardy would have thought about that...

As far as the work itself - I had assumed it was a book. At 50 pages it is no more than a pamphlet or essay. Also, the foreword by C.P. Snow is not included in this edition. However, the worst thing about this particular edition is the enormous number of typos - there must be at least two per page on average. Extremely annoying and well worth an apology.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a good book for people intersted in mathematics, no prior knowledge needed! It discusses how mathematics is important in the everyday world. I would recommend this book especially to mathematics students (or prospective ones) as wider reading. It is interesting to see how in Hardy's time, less than sixty years ago, areas of mathematics that had no obvious use and were studied purely for their beauty have become the centre of importance in the computer and internet technology of today and the future with important applications and areas of research.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A wonderful read.
Published 18 days ago by Nicholas von Most
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting read
Bought this for my Daughter but read it before her. It is a very interesting read, he was definitely a man from his time. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Marcus
5.0 out of 5 stars Really fascinating
Makes mathematics sound both exciting and an art form and gives a brilliant insight into the mind of the mathematician.
Published 6 months ago by SecondCherry
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating book - weird edition
Hardy writes with disarming humility and a scrupulous clarity, and is intelligible and interesting even to a maths no-hoper like me. Read more
Published 8 months ago by vctutti
1.0 out of 5 stars This print is for the visually impaired only!
Without the least warning I was sent a copy for the visually impaired. This is totally misguided. I am not visually impaired and do not want to be mis-sold a copy without my... Read more
Published 11 months ago by E. Vynckier
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read - questionable editing
I wanted to read this book (though more of an essay), because I had read a number of others that made reference to it. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jacob
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor old Prof. Hardy
This book is written by a retired mathematician who is arrogant and so full of his own importance as to make one stop reading. Read more
Published 13 months ago by George Galbraith
5.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't pull his punches!
In this day and age Hardy would be considered to have a rude manner. He is extremely forthright in in his opinions of his subject and of people. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Martin Toward
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
Helps figure out things regarding the depth of the love of this noble subject. it lights a flame in your heart
Published 20 months ago by Mr. Harish Lathia
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid this edition.
This edition is very cheaply produced and very thin, it can barely be called a book. The foreword by C. P. Snow is not included. Read more
Published on 12 July 2012 by maria
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