Portrait of Eric Temple Bell

Eric Temple Bell


Scottish mathematician

To appreciate the living spirit rather than the dry bones of mathematics, it is necessary to inspect the work of a master at first hand. Textbooks and treatises are an unavoidable evil…The very crudities of the first attack on a significant problem by a master are more illuminating than all the pretty elegance of the standard texts which has been won at the cost of perhaps centuries of finicky polishing.

TOPICS: learning, textbooks, mastery

“Obvious” is the most dangerous word in mathematics.

TOPICS: obvious

The longer mathematics lives the more abstract—and therefore, possibly also the more practical—it becomes.

TOPICS: abstraction, practicality

Creative mathematicians now, as in the past, are inspired by the art of mathematics rather than by any prospect of ultimate usefulness.

TOPICS: art, creativity, practicality