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A Mathematician's Apology [Large Print] [Paperback]

G. H. Hardy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Oct 2011
A Mathematician's Apology is the famous essay by British mathematician G. H. Hardy. It concerns the aesthetics of mathematics with some personal content, and gives the layman an insight into the mind of a working mathematician. Indeed, this book is often considered one of the best insights into the mind of a working mathematician written for the layman.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 56 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (5 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1466402695
  • ISBN-13: 978-1466402690
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A classic tale of retrospection considering wider, powerful themes in mathematics.' Mathematics Today

'Hardy provides an amazing insight into the mind of the mathematician.' Marcus du Sautoy, The Week

'Hardy provides an amazing insight into the mind of the mathematician.' Marcus du Sautoy, Waitrose Weekend Magazine --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you have already encountered A Mathematician's Apology, I very much doubt you will demur from my review title. If not - read at once. Little need be said except the basics: this is an insight into mathematics, and why mathematicians persue it, by a leading professional mathematician of the early 20th century. Hardy was, however, a very unusual personality in many ways by the standards of mathematicians. His strange personality and, oddly for such an avowed atheist, his very strong spirituality, make for a poetic yet precise approach to his topic. The preface by C.P. Snow is a masterpiece of character study, and essential reading so as best to appreciate Hardy's own thoughts. The only drawback of the Kindle edition is the lack of the splendid cover picture used for so many years on the Cambridge University Press print editions. By the way, no experience or ability in mathematics is needed to enjoy, and benefit from, this book. Quite the contrary, both mathematicians and those to whom mathematics is a closed book will relish Hardy's work in different ways. That is the remarkable achievement of this niche classic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 3 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 4 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 6 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 9 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 10 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 11 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 11 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 18 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 24 months ago by maria
3.0 out of 5 stars A defence of mediocrity
"Minor Classic"?
Quite possibly.
"The best account of what it is like to be a creative artist"?
I could believe it. Read more
Published on 8 Mar 2012 by Dave
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