“…you’re jewish, you’re a foreigner, and you’re too good a mathematician for these people”

(The author makes no claim regarding the relevance of the third clause of the title of this post to himself.)

So, my Spanish is not really good enough for reading books in the language just yet. Consequently, due to bad planning and all five floors of the university library being the perfect place to get lost my recent reading material has primarily consisted of popular mathematics/science. I would like to highly recommend to anyone reading this a book I finished at the weekend – The Apprenticeship of a Mathematician by the French algebraic geometer André Weil. The book is essentially an autobiography stretching from his early life to the end of world war II (ie the ‘comic opera in six acts’).

The mathematician reading this will enjoy reading about our hero’s interactions with Bourbaki, Brouer, Chevalley, Courant, Lebesgue, Noether and many many many more. The non-mathematican will enjoy reading about our hero’s interactions with the real Bourbaki, Ghandi, Trotsky, Hitler, the queen, Clementine Churchill and even WH Auden, among others.

During his early career he worked in France, Italy, Germany, England, Finland, the USA, India and even Brazil! Indeed the title of this post is a quote from a friend of Weil’s explaining to him why he had so much difficulty finding a job in the USA during the war – the very employment problems that ultimately lead to him winding up in Brazil.

There are numerous passages from this book that I would love to quote, but there are simply too many to include here (comparing the description of the Indian Postal Service to the almost non-existant Colombian analogue, certainly raised an eyebrow). In short: read it!

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2 Responses to ““…you’re jewish, you’re a foreigner, and you’re too good a mathematician for these people””

  1. Joe Says:

    I bought this a while ago but haven’t opened it yet. I’m a lot more likely to now.

  2. Voting and the Harmonic series « From Calculus to Columbia Says:

    […] and the Harmonic series By From Calculus to Columbia As noted in a previous post my choice of reading material at the moment is a little restricted. As a result at the weekend I […]

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