Browsing category ninja lives

The Stuckness of Andrew Wiles

One of the most famous examples of stuckness - both for maths as a whole and for a mathematician in particular - is Fermat's Last Theorem, which states that there is no solution to $a^n + b^n = c^n$ for whole numbers $a$, $b$, $c$ and $n$ unless $n$ is

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Udo of Aachen: Lives of the Mathematical Ninja

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Maths Bible, (which will eventually be available from all good bookstores.) Udo of Aachen (c. 1200-1270) was a Benedictine monk, scholar, poet and mathematician. His best-known poetical work is Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi, which is usually know by its choral title, O

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Billy Beane: Lives of the Mathematical Ninja

Unusually for a Mathematical Ninja, Billy Beane isn't a mathematician. Nor is he dead. He's a baseball manager. Now, I don't know one end of a baseball stick from another, so this will be strewn with errors: one thing I do know, thought, is that if I was a baseball

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Gerolamo Cardano: Lives of the Mathematical Ninja

It's been a while since I did a Ninja Lives post - let me put that right! Gerolamo Cardano is just what the MacTutor archives call him: in France, he's Jerome Cardan; if you ask a Latinist, he's Hieronymus Cardanus. Some people call him Geronimo, which is a pretty awesome

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Florence Nightingale: Lives of the Mathematical Ninja

A Mathematical Ninja? Surely Nightingale was just a nurse? Wandering about with a lamp? Well, no. For several reasons, no. First up: there's no such thing as 'just a nurse'. Especially not in the crowded field hospitals of the Crimea. More to the point, Nightingale was a leading light1 in

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János Bolyai – Lives of the Mathematical Ninja

I'm writing this fresh from giving a talk at Poole Grammar School about the maths of Alice in Wonderland and didn't get a real chance there to talk about one of the ninjas behind it. János Bolyai is my favourite kind of mathematician: the glorious failure. He came really close

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Lives of the Mathematical Ninja: Evariste Galois

Like the most-celebrated rock stars, the most famous mathematicians live fast and die young. Evariste Galois was 20 when he went to meet the Supreme Fascist, on the wrong end of a bullet in a duel. It's not clear who his opponent was. He's held up as a romantic hero:

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Lives of the Mathematical Ninja: Blaise Pascal

My current hero of mathematics - like Ramanujan - died before he was 40. Like Ramanujan, he'd already revolutionised maths by that point. Blaise Pascal (born in Clermont-Ferrand in central France in 1623) can reasonably claim to have invented probability theory, and the first calculator; he was also the first

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The Lives of the Mathematical Ninja: Bourbaki

Nicolas Bourbaki published a series of books in the middle of the 20th century, in an attempt to put maths on a firmly rigorous footing. So far, so completely antithetical to Mathematical Ninjary, which is all about getting good answers quickly without worrying too much about the details. But there’s

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The Lives* of the Mathematical Ninja: Srinivasa Ramanujan

If you ever reach the upper echelons of mathematical research, you will get a fair number of letters and emails from cranks wanting you to champion their crackpot schemes. It goes with the territory. Some of them are entertaining, most of them are harmless, misguided buffoons, and some are dangerous

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