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on 6 May 2012
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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on 25 June 2003
Quite simply: if you are 'doing' mathematics, or if you are about to embark on a course of study in mathematics or the philosophy of mathematics, then you must read this book.
It is not only a record of the deepest thoughts of one of the central figures in 20th century mathematics, it is also a joy to read. Succinct, compelling and utterly candid this book like no other captures the attitude of the mathematician of the last century. If you want to know why this book explains it. Suprisingly, by understatement, Hardy manages nevertheless to reveal a passion for intellectual beauty which takes the breath, and possibly the soul, away.
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on 14 May 2001
This is simply a superb book, and I am not sure that any review I write will really do this classic text justice. The book provides an insight into the life of one of the 20th Century's best Pure Mathematicians, G.H. Hardy and is an inspirational text for all those wishing to persue, or who are in, a career in mathematics. The book provides a wonderful mix of tones, moments of happiness, poignant memories, and sadness. The foreword by C.P. Snow is excellent and provides a thoughtful yet entertaining introduction to G.H. Hardy. I recommend this book wholeheartedly - it really should have a place on every mathematicians bookshelf.
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on 7 February 2010
I had read that Hardy's apology was very good value and, my goodness, it is. Hardy's uncompromising attitude to success and his delightfuland precise use of English make this a delight to read. People who dislike elitism will be put off because he is an unashamed elitist. I was enthralled and want to make my grandchildren read it and to write a commentary on it for them to elucidate the bits of mathematical philosophy which hadn't been established when he wrote.

The preface by CP Snow is, by comparison, pedestrian and mealy mouthed.

Anthony Camacho
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on 23 August 2013
I wanted to read this book (though more of an essay), because I had read a number of others that made reference to it.

It's very interesting and the blunt honesty of Hardy when presenting his 'apologies' makes a good read. However, there are a number of spelling mistakes that frankly, I do not know if they feature in the original work, but it's a little irritating. None of them are illegible, but an annoyance all the same.
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on 23 December 2013
Hardy writes with disarming humility and a scrupulous clarity, and is intelligible and interesting even to a maths no-hoper like me. His distinction between pure and applied maths is particularly thought-provoking.

There is a historical sense of `apology', meaning `defence', and I think in 1940 he may have been playing in a slightly jokey way on the ambiguity between this sense and the modern one (which implies, unlike the older one, regret and contrition).

I have probably led a rather sheltered literary life, but several features of this edition are new to me:

(a) an average of one misprint every two pages;
(b) no publisher's name;
(c) no © mark or date;
(d) no ISBN number;
(e) a failure to make the usual slightly greater line space before and after lengthy indented passages (in this case usually quotations or calculations).

Maybe this is what to expect from modern cheap editions of classic books - though for me this is neither an `edition' nor really a `book' at all.
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on 10 February 2001
This is a very enjoyable read decribing life as a mathematician. It contains an excellent discussion about how mathematics can be extremely elegant with examples proving that the square root of 2 is irrational and the number of primes is infinite. It is also gives an interesting perspective into his relationship with the Indian mathematician Ramanujan and the culture of Cambridge mathematics during the first half of the twentieth century.
Passages from this book have been quoted in a wide variety of sources and I would recommend the book for anybody with an interest in the history of mathematics or for anybody thinking of studying mathematics at a higher level.
Dave Cavill Head of Mathematics, Grove School Newark UK
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on 10 April 2014
Bought this for my Daughter but read it before her. It is a very interesting read, he was definitely a man from his time. His social comments on individuals abilities and talents would cause outrage in he was interviewed on TV today. However, I think it doesn't distract from the unquestionable logic he applies to the discussion. It was fascinating to discover what he considered to be interesting and important maths and it left one considering if he would have felt the same if he had seem the incredible rise in the importance of computer technology. A good advert for listening to radio 4 to discover interesting books.
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on 23 October 2005
I believe that the two biggest compliments a math author can get are first to have Graham Greene write: "the best account of what it was like to be a creative artist". And the second is to see his/her book open with an engaging Foreword by C. P. Snow. This little book by G.H. Hardy is deserving of both! And it is for good reasons that it has been reprinted many times over!
More than sixty-six years ago G. H. Hardy so eloquently apologized to the World for mathematics. You might say that no apology is needed, but many of my calculus students beg to disagree!
Back then in the shadow of one World War, and in the approach to a second, Hardy, a pacifist, and the Platonic puritan he was clearly had in mind pure mathematics. -- (And at the time, some parts of applied math had been used in an unpopular war.)
Now reflecting on this many years later, I couldn't help wonder if in the mean time the winds could have changed; wondering whether perhaps now a math author who trespasses into engineering topics and other applied domains might not be expected to apologize; --- at least if he/she has in mind math students as his primary audience. Aside from this, Hardy's lovely little book has over the years become a paradigm for math apologies, and any apologetic mathematician ought to at least mention Hardy in her credits.
Review by Palle Jorgensen, October 2005.
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on 23 July 2008
I bought Hardy's biography almost 50 years ago, just before going up to university to read Maths. The gentle almost humourous tone of the book convinced me that the life of a mathematician was a potential source of pleasure. In fact I later moved to read Philosophy, for my interests grew to centre on Logic and Mathematical Foundations, but my current work on Infinity still finds me using Hardy's "Pure Mathematics", and I still occasionally read his "Apology" for the pure pleasure that this outstanding book provides.
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