Paul Halmos quotes

“The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics.”
 Paul HalmosSource : P.R. Halmos, Paul Richard Halmos (1982). “A Hilbert Space Problem Book”, p.7, Springer Science & Business Media

“The best way to learn is to do; the worst way to teach is to talk.”
 Paul Halmos 
“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.”
 Paul Halmos 
“...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.”
 Paul Halmos 

“You are allowed to lie a little, but you must never mislead.”
 Paul Halmos 
“A clever graduate student could teach Fourier something new, but surely no one claims that he could teach Archimedes to reason better.”
 Paul Halmos 
“Applied mathematics will always need pure mathematics just as anteaters will always need ants.”
 Paul Halmos 
“Feller was an ebullient man, who would rather be wrong than undecided.”
 Paul Halmos 

“The library is the mathematician's laboratory.”
 Paul Halmos 
“The mathematical fraternity is a little like a selfperpetuating priesthood. The mathematicians of today teach the mathematicians of tomorrow and, in effect, decide whom to admit to the priesthood.”
 Paul Halmos 
“The beginner should not be discouraged if he finds he does not have the prerequisites for reading the prerequisites.”
 Paul Halmos 
“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."”
 Paul Halmos 

“Mathematics is not a deductive science, that's a clichÃ© ... What you do is trial and error, experimentation, guesswork.”
 Paul HalmosSource : "I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography". Book by Paul Halmos, 1985.

“It saddens me that educated people don't even know that my subject exists.”
 Paul Halmos 
“To be a scholar of mathematics you must be born with talent, insight, concentration, taste, luck, drive and the ability to visualize and guess.”
 Paul Halmos 
“The computer is important, but not to mathematics.”
 Paul Halmos 

“Mathematics  this may surprise or shock some  is never deductive in creation.”
 Paul Halmos 
“Mathematics is not a deductive sciencethat's a clichÃ©. 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, experiment and guesswork.”
 Paul Halmos 
“[Mathematics] is security. Certainty. Truth. Beauty. Insight. Structure. Architecture. I see mathematics, the part of human knowledge that I call mathematics, as one thingone 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.”
 Paul HalmosSource : "Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics".

“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.”
 Paul HalmosSource : Paul Richard Halmos, John Ewing, F.W. Gehring (1991). “PAUL HALMOS Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics: Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics”, p.21, Springer Science & Business Media


“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.”
 Paul HalmosSource : Paul Richard Halmos (1983). “Selecta: expository writing”, Springer Verlag

“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.”
 Paul Halmos 
“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.”
 Paul Halmos 
“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.”
 Paul Halmos 

“The 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.”
 Paul Halmos 
“... 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."”
 Paul Halmos 
“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.”
 Paul Halmos 
“I read once that the true mark of a pro â€” at anything â€” is that he understands, loves, and is good at even the drudgery of his profession.”
 Paul HalmosSource : "I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography". Book by Paul Halmos, 1985.


“The author discusses valueless measures in pointless spaces.”
 Paul Halmos 
“The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics. That tenet is the foundation of the doityourself, Socratic, or Texas method, ...”
 Paul Halmos 
“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.”
 Paul HalmosSource : Paul Richard Halmos (1983). “Selecta: expository writing”, Springer Verlag


“Don't just read it; fight it! Ask your own questions, look for your own examples, discover your own proofs. Is the hypothesis necessary? Is the converse true? Where does the proof use the hypothesis?”
 Paul HalmosSource : "I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography". Book by Paul Halmos, 1985.
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