Paul Erdős

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Paul Erdős (also Pál Erdős, March 26, 1913September 20, 1996) was an immensely prolific and famously eccentric mathematician who, with hundreds of collaborators, worked on problems in combinatorics, graph theory, number theory, classical analysis, approximation theory, set theory and probability theory.


  • Aliens invade the earth and threaten to obliterate it in a year's time unless human beings can find the Ramsey number for red five and blue five. We could marshal the world's best minds and fastest computers, and within a year we could probably calculate the value. If the aliens demanded the Ramsey number for red six and blue six, however, we would have no choice but to launch a preemptive attack.
    • Graham, Ronald L. and Joel H. Spencer. Ramsey Theory. Scientific American July 1990: 112-117


  • A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.
    • Probably originates from Alfréd Rényi, with whom Erdős frequently collaborated.
  • God may not play dice with the universe, but something strange is going on with the prime numbers.
    • Parodying Albert Einstein's comment "God does not play dice with the universe".
    • This was not actually said by Erdős but originated in a talk given by Carl Pomerance shortly after Erdős' death. The jest referred to the Erdős-Kac theorem.
  • This one's from the Book!
    • Said with regard to a particularly beautiful or elegant proof, referring to a mythical "book" in which God wrote the proofs for all theorems. (cf the next quote)
  • God has a Book where he maintains the best proofs of all mathematical theorems, proofs that are elegant and perfect... You don't have to believe in God, but you should believe in the Book.
  • Végre nem butulok tovább
    • Translation: Finally I'm becoming stupider no more.
    • Erdös suggested this for his own epitaph.
  • I have no home, the world is my home.
  • Television is something the Russians invented to destroy American education.
  • My brain is open.
  • Another roof, another proof.
  • Let <math>n</math> be an integer.
    • Usual start of the talks of Paul Erdős.
  • I hope we'll be able to solve these problems before we leave. And when I say "before we leave", I mean "before we die".
  • God is "the Supreme Fascist."
    • Erdős is supposed to have used the term "Supreme Fascist" quite often [1].

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