Best quotes by Paul Halmos

Paul Halmos

Paul Halmos

Influential Mathematician & Educator

Paul Halmos was a distinguished Hungarian-American mathematician and educator, born on March 3, 1916. His significant contributions to the field of mathematics spanned diverse areas, including functional analysis, probability, and mathematical logic.

Halmos was not only known for his mathematical insights but also for his exceptional ability to convey complex concepts with clarity, as seen in his numerous textbooks and expository writings.

His dedication to education and his impactful contributions to mathematical knowledge continue to inspire generations of mathematicians and students around the world.

All quotes by Paul Halmos:

The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics.

The best way to learn is to do; the worst way to teach is to talk.

Don't just read it; fight it! Ask your own question, look for your own examples, discover your own proofs. Is the hypothesis necessary? Is the converse true? ... Where does the proof use the hypothesis?

The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics. That tenet is the foundation of the do-it-yourself, Socratic, or Texas method.

The heart of mathematics consists of concrete examples and concrete problems. Big general theories are usually afterthoughts based on small but profound insights; the insights themselves come from concrete special cases.

A good stack of examples, as large as possible, is indispensable for a thorough understanding of any concept,and when I want to learn something new, I make it my first job to build one.

The beginner should not be discouraged if he finds he does not have the prerequisites for reading the prerequisites.

A smooth lecture... may be pleasant; a good teacher challenges, asks, irritates and maintains high standards - all that is generally not pleasant.

It is the duty of all teachers, and of teachers of mathematics in particular, to expose their students to problems much more than to facts.

[Mathematics] is security. Certainty. Truth. Beauty. Insight. Structure. Architecture. I see mathematics, the part of human knowledge that I call mathematics, as one thing - one great, glorious thing. Whether it is differential topology, or functional analysis, or homological algebra, it is all one thing. ... They are intimately interconnected, they are all facets of the same thing. That interconnection, that architecture, is secure truth and is beauty. That's what mathematics is to me.

...the source of all great mathematics is the special case, the concrete example. It is frequent in mathematics that every instance of a concept of seemingly generality is, in essence, the same as a small and concrete special case.

The heart of mathematics is its problems.

Mathematics is not a deductive science - that's a cliché. When you try to prove a theorem, you don't just list the hypotheses, and then start to reason. What you do is trial and error, experimentation, guesswork.

Applied mathematics will always need pure mathematics just as anteaters will always need ants.

What's the best part of being a mathematician? I'm not a religious man, but it's almost like being in touch with God when you're thinking about mathematics. God is keeping secrets from us, and it's fun to try to learn some of the secrets.

I read once that the true mark of a pro - at anything - is that he understands, loves, and is good at even the drudgery of his profession.

To be a scholar of mathematics you must be born with talent, insight, concentration, taste, luck, drive and the ability to visualize and guess.

I remember one occasion when I tried to add a little seasoning to a review, but I wasn't allowed to. The paper was by Dorothy Maharam, and it was a perfectly sound contribution to abstract measure theory. The domains of the underlying measures were not sets but elements of more general Boolean algebras, and their range consisted not of positive numbers but of certain abstract equivalence classes. My proposed first sentence was: "The author discusses valueless measures in pointless spaces."

When a student comes and asks, "Should I become a mathematician?" the answer should be no. If you have to ask, you shouldn't even ask.

Feller was an ebullient man, who would rather be wrong than undecided.

You are allowed to lie a little, but you must never mislead.

It saddens me that educated people don't even know that my subject exists.

The joy of suddenly learning a former secret and the joy of suddenly discovering a hitherto unknown truth are the same to me - both have the flash of enlightenment, the almost incredibly enhanced vision, and the ecstasy and euphoria of released tension.

The most spectacular thing about Johnny [von Neumann] was not his power as a mathematician, which was great, or his insight and his clarity, but his rapidity; he was very, very fast. And like the modern computer, which no longer bothers to retrieve the logarithm of 11 from its memory (but, instead, computes the logarithm of 11 each time it is needed), Johnny didn't bother to remember things. He computed them. You asked him a question, and if he didn't know the answer, he thought for three seconds and would produce and answer.

The library is the mathematician's laboratory.

A clever graduate student could teach Fourier something new, but surely no one claims that he could teach Archimedes to reason better.

Mathematics - this may surprise or shock some - is never deductive in creation.

Many teachers are concerned about the amount of material they must cover in a course. One cynic suggested a formula: since, he said, students on the average remember only about 40% of what you tell them, the thing to do is to cram into each course 250% of what you hope will stick.

If the NSF had never existed, if the government had never funded American mathematics, we would have half as many mathematicians as we now have, and I don't see anything wrong with that.

... the student skit at Christmas contained a plaintive line: "Give us Master's exams that our faculty can pass, or give us a faculty that can pass our Master's exams."

The mathematical fraternity is a little like a self-perpetuating priesthood. The mathematicians of today teach the mathematicians of tomorrow and, in effect, decide whom to admit to the priesthood.

Mathematics is not a deductive science - that's a cliché... What you do is trial and error, experimentation, guesswork.

The computer is important, but not to mathematics.

The author discusses valueless measures in pointless spaces.