Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Paul Halmos, 1914-2006

I just saw a sad news item on the AMS web site. Paul Halmos passed away on Monday, 2 October. He was a master of mathematical exposition, both in writing and speaking, and taught many writers in the mathematical sciences how to write.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of borrowing his "mathobiography" I Want to Be a Mathematician from Steffen Lauritzen in Aalborg, and enjoyed it immensely. I plan to buy a copy for my bookshelves at some point.

Bas Luttik has keeps telling me to read Halmos's expository work on algebraic logic. I keep postponing doing so, but maybe now it is time to start. At least after some pencil sharpening has taken place :-)

Let me end with a quotation from Halmos's mathobiography I like:

"I love to do research, I want to do research, I have to do research, and I hate to sit down and begin to do research---I always try to put it off just as long as I can.
....Isn't there something I can (must?) do first? Shouldn't I sharpen my pencils perhaps?"

- --Paul Halmos, I Want to be a Mathematician

These days I sharpen my pencils a lot, alas.

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