I believe that mathematical reality lies outside us, that our function is to discover or observe it, and that the theorems which we prove, and which we describe grandiloquently as our "creations," are simply the notes of our observations.

I am interested in mathematics only as a creative art.

No mathematician should ever allow him to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game. ... Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty. There have been men who have done great work later; ... [but] I do not know of a single instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty. ... A mathematician may still be competent enough at sixty, but it is useless to expect him to have original ideas.

Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not. "Immortality" may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean.

Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.

A mathematician, like a painter or poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.

Most people are so frightened of the name of mathematics that they are ready, quite unaffectedly, to exaggerate their own mathematical stupidity.

The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's, must be beautiful.

Reductio ad absurdum, which Euclid loved so much, is one of a mathematician's finest weapons. It is a far finer gambit than any chess play: a chess player may offer the sacrifice of a pawn or even a piece, but a mathematician offers the game.

[P]ure mathematics is on the whole distinctly more useful than applied. For what is useful above all is technique, and mathematical technique is taught mainly through pure mathematics.

Young men should prove theorems, old men should write books.

I count Maxwell and Einstein, Eddington and Dirac, among "real" mathematicians. The great modern achievements of applied mathematics have been in relativity and quantum mechanics, and these subjects are at present at any rate, almost as "useless" as the theory of numbers.

The public does not need to be convinced that there is something in mathematics.

If a man is in any sense a real mathematician, then it is a hundred to one that his mathematics will be far better than anything else he can do, and that it would be silly if he surrendered any decent opportunity of exercising his one talent in order to do undistinguished work in other fields. Such a sacrifice could be justified only by economic necessity of age.

The "seriousness" of a mathematical theorem lies, not in its practical consequences, which are usually negligible, but in the significance of the mathematical ideas which it connects.

When the world is mad, a mathematician may find in mathematics an incomparable anodyne. For mathematics is, of all the arts and sciences, the most austere and the most remote, and a mathematician should be of all men the one who can most easily take refuge where, as Bertrand Russell says, "one at least of our nobler impulses can best escape from the dreary exile of the actual world."

Mathematics is not a contemplative but a creative subject.

Mathematics may, like poetry or music, "promote and sustain a lofty habit of mind."

A chess problem is an exercise in pure mathematics.

The Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations have perished; Hammurabi, Sargon and Nebuchadnezzar are empty names; yet Babylonian mathematics is still interesting, and the Babylonian scale of 60 is still used in Astronomy.

Mathematics is not a contemplative but a creative subject; no one can draw much consolation from it when he has lost the power or the desire to create; and that is apt to happen to a mathematician rather soon. It is a pity, but in that case he does not matter a great deal anyhow, and it would be silly to bother about him.

I remember once going to see him [Ramanujan] when he was lying ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi-cab No. 1729, and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavourable omen. "No," he replied, "it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as a sum of two cubes in two different ways."

If I could prove by logic that you would die in five minutes, I should be sorry you were going to die, but my sorrow would be very much mitigated by pleasure in the proof.

I do not remember having felt, as a boy, any passion for mathematics, and such notions as I may have had of the career of a mathematician were far from noble. I thought of mathematics in terms of examinations and scholarships: I wanted to beat other boys, and this seemed to be the way in which I could do so most decisively.

[I was advised] to read Jordan's 'Cours d'analyse'; and I shall never forget the astonishment with which I read that remarkable work, the first inspiration for so many mathematicians of my generation, and learnt for the first time as I read it what mathematics really meant.

Follow AzQuotes on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Every day we present the best quotes! Improve yourself, find your inspiration, share with friends

or simply: