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A collection of quotes and thoughts by G. H. Hardy on time, intelligence, mathematics, numbers, work, appreciation, world, ideas, patterns, creative and art.

43 Great Quotes By G. H. Hardy From His Work & Life

Quick Facts

Famous As: Mathematician

Born On: February 7, 1877

Died On: December 1, 1947

Born In: Cranleigh, United Kingdom

Died At Age: 70

Godfrey Harold Harry was one of the most famous mathematicians known for his achievements in mathematical analysis and number theory. He is popularly recognized as the man who tamed Srinivasa Ramanujan, another great Mathematician from India. A whiz right from a young age, there are tales saying that Hardy used to write number up to millions when he was just two years old. He referred most of his work as pure mathematics rather than applied mathematics. He collaborated with Ramanujan to derive a formula which is known as the ‘Hardy-Ramanujan asymptotic formula’ which was applied in physics. One of his most credited works among many was reforming British mathematics by including ‘Rigour’ into it. Besides his works, his essay on aesthetics of mathematics ‘A Mathematicians Apology’ is one of the best visions for a mathematician written in the layman’s language. We have compiled Hardy’s quotes from his writings, speeches, observations etc. Below are a few of G. H. Hardy’s thoughts and sayings.
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A person’s first duty, a young person’s at any rate, is to be ambitious, and the noblest ambition is that of leaving behind something of permanent value.

G. H. Hardy

It is not worth an intelligent man's time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.

G. H. Hardy

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.

G. H. Hardy

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

G. H. Hardy

I was at my best at a little past forty, when I was a professor at Oxford.

G. H. Hardy

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.

G. H. Hardy

Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not.

G. H. Hardy

Pure 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.

G. H. Hardy

I am interested in mathematics only as a creative art.

G. H. Hardy

[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.

G. H. Hardy

I wrote a great deal... but very little of any importance; there are not more than four of five papers which I can still remember with some satisfaction.

G. H. Hardy

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

G. H. Hardy

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.

G. H. Hardy

It is a melancholy experience for a professional mathematician to find himself writing about mathematics. The function of a mathematician is to do something, to prove new theorems, to add to mathematics, and not to talk about what he or other mathematicians have done. Statesmen despise publicists, painters despise art-critics, and physiologists, physicists, or mathematicians have usually similar feelings: there is no scorn more profound, or on the whole more justifiable, than that of the men who make for the men who explain. Exposition, criticism, appreciation, is work for second-rate minds.

G. H. Hardy

317 is a prime, not because we think so, or because our minds are shaped in one way rather than another, but because it is so, because mathematical reality is built that way.

G. H. Hardy

Real mathematics must be justified as art if it can be justified at all.

G. H. Hardy

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.

G. H. Hardy

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

G. H. Hardy

[Regarding mathematics,] there are now few studies more generally recognized, for good reasons or bad, as profitable and praiseworthy. This may be true; indeed it is probable, since the sensational triumphs of Einstein, that stellar astronomy and atomic physics are the only sciences which stand higher in popular estimation.

G. H. Hardy

Mathematics is not a contemplative but a creative subject.

G. H. Hardy

I propose to put forward an apology for mathematics; and I may be told that it needs none, since there are now few studies more generally recognized, for good reasons or bad, as profitable and praiseworthy.

G. H. Hardy

There is no scorn more profound, or on the whole more justifiable, than that of the men who make for the men who explain.

G. H. Hardy

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

G. H. Hardy

[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.

G. H. Hardy

For any serious purpose, intelligence is a very minor gift.

G. H. Hardy

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.

G. H. Hardy

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

G. H. Hardy

If intellectual curiosity, professional pride, and ambition are the dominant incentives to research, then assuredly no one has a fairer chance of gratifying them than a mathematician.

G. H. Hardy

It (proof by contradiction) is a far finer gambit than any chess gambit: a chess player may offer the sacrifice of a pawn or even a piece, but a mathematician offers the game.

G. H. Hardy

The creative life [is] the only one for a serious man.

G. H. Hardy

The primes are the raw material out of which we have to build arithmetic, and Euclid's theorem assures us that we have plenty of material for the task.

G. H. Hardy

A science is said to be useful if its development tends to accentuate the existing inequalities in the distribution of wealth, or more directly promotes the destruction of human life.

G. H. Hardy

The fact is there are few more popular subjects than mathematics. Most people have some appreciation of mathematics, just as most people can enjoy a pleasant tune.

G. H. Hardy

All analysts spend half their time hunting through the literature for inequalities which they want to use and cannot prove.

G. H. Hardy

It is rather astonishing how little practical value scientific knowledge has for ordinary men, how dull and commonplace such of it as has value is, and how its value seems almost to vary inversely to its reputed utility.

G. H. Hardy

A mathematician ... has no material to work with but ideas, and so his patterns are likely to last longer, since ideas wear less with time than words.

G. H. Hardy

Good work is not done by 'humble' men

G. H. Hardy

A month's intelligent instruction in the theory of numbes ought to be twice as instructive, twice as useful, and at least 10 times as entertaining as the same amount of 'calculus for engineers'.

G. H. Hardy

... Philosophy proper is a subject, on the one hand so hopelessly obscure, on the other so astonishingly elementary, that there knowledge hardly counts.

G. H. Hardy

No one should ever be bored. … One can be horrified, or disgusted, but one can’t be bored.

G. H. Hardy

As Littlewood said to me once [of the ancient Greeks], they are not clever school boys or 'scholarship candidates,' but 'Fellows of another college.

G. H. Hardy

Bradman is a whole class above any batsman who has ever lived: if Archimedes, Newton and Gauss remain in the Hobbs class, I have to admit the possibility of a class above them, which I find difficult to imagine. They had better be moved from now on into the Bradman class.

G. H. Hardy

A man who sets out to justify his existence and his activities has to distinguish two different questions. The first is whether the work which he does is worth doing; and the second is why he does it (whatever its value may be).

G. H. Hardy