Sunday, March 3, 2019

Rebels With a Cause

I’m long fascinated by the varying lives and minds of mathematicians. Thusly, one of my favorite sections of Thomas Lin’s (editor) fabulous volume, “The Prime Number Conspiracy,” is Part 4 “How Do the Best Mathematical Minds Work?,” offering fascinating profiles of several individual prominent mathematicians. One of them, Freeman Dyson held a well-known disdain for PhD. degrees, and I’ll just pass along these lines (that just maybe will inspire some):

…I’m very proud of not having a Ph.D. I think the Ph.D. system is an abomination… It’s good for a very small number of people who are going to spend their lives being professors. But it has become now a kind of union card that you have to have in order to have a job, whether it’s being a professor or other things, and it’s quite inappropriate for that… The Ph.D takes far too long and discourages women from becoming scientists, which I consider a great tragedy. So I have opposed it all my life without any success at all…

…So I’m very proud that I don’t have a Ph.D. and I raised six children and none of them has a Ph.D., so that’s my contribution.

[Dyson is still going strong at 95, contemplating unsolved math problems, and 5 of his 6 children, by the way, are women.]

...and then, on a separate note, a bit ago I came across this wonderful Paul Lockhart quote (from "A Mathematician's Lament") in a piece by Sunil Singh:

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