## Happy Birthday, Paul Erdos!

March 26, 2012 6 Comments

March 26 is the birthday of one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, Paul Erdos. Considering this fact, it should be easy to write some sort of tribute, right? Well, maybe not. When I started to write this post celebrating his birthday, I was very intimidated. I was worried that, no matter what I wrote, I wouldn’t write enough to honor his memory. I even wondered what I should write about.

Maybe I should write about the fact that he was gifted mathematician? Erdos is said to rival Leonard Euler as the most prolific mathematician in history, having produced some 1500 mathematical papers, many with collaborators.

Maybe I should write about his quirks? He could be known to appear at your doorstep, unannounced, for an extended visit, announcing that his “brain is open”. Legend has it that he had trouble tying his shoes, buttering his toast and opening containers of orange juice. He loved ping-pong. Even his childhood was unique.

Maybe I should write about Erdos as the philanthropist? Erdos had little need for money so most of the money he earned was donated … whether to charities, needy friends or to set up scholarships. If there was someone, anywhere, who needed financial help, Erdos was there.

Or, maybe I should leave it up to a professional wordsmith? In 1996, columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote a beautiful and touching tribute to Erdos, titled “Paul Erdos, Sweet Genius”. I think I made the right choice.

If this isn’t enough and you are interested in learning more about Paul Erdos, you can read a more academic biography by clicking on this link. If reading a book is more to your liking, here are two to consider.

- The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman (Click here to read my brief synopsis.)
- My Brain is Open by Bruce Schechter (Click here to read my brief synopsis.)

Happy Birthday, Paul!