Library / A Mathematician's Apology

A relatively short essay, in which G.H. Hardy expresses his views on mathematics, aesthetics, and life in general mixed with his autobiography notes. He wrote this essay at age 62, and sometimes it feels like “an old man yells at cloud,” while it is still quite interesting to read. This write-up also fragmentally covers stories of Hardy’s close friends including Ramanujan and Littlewood.

Quotes (2)

Most People Can Do Nothing Well

It is quite true that most people can do nothing well. If so, it matters very little what career they choose, and there is really nothing more to say about it.

Egotism is Inevitable

Some egotism of this sort is inevitable, and I do not feel that it really needs justification. Good work is not done by ‘humble’ men. It is one of the first duties of a professor, for example, in any subject, to exaggerate a little both the importance of his subject and his own importance in it. A man who is always asking ‘Is what I do worth while?’ and ‘Am I the right person to do it?’ will always be ineffective himself and a discouragement to others. He must shut his eyes a little and think a little more of his subject and himself than they deserve. This is not too difficult: it is harder not to make his subject and himself ridiculous by shutting his eyes too tightly.