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Fortress Mathematica

Brian Rotman: John Nash and Paul Erdos, 17 September 1998

The Man who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdös and the Search for Mathematical Truth 
by Paul Hoffman.
Fourth Estate, 320 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 1 85702 811 2
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Proofs from the Book 
by Martin Aigner and Günter Ziegler.
Springer, 210 pp., £19, August 1998, 3 540 63698 6
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A Beautiful Mind: Genius and Schizophrenia in the Life of John Nash 
by Sylvia Nasar.
Faber, 464 pp., £17.99, September 1998, 0 571 17794 8
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... Being affectionate with numbers, endlessly wondering about them, loving them, is, though impersonal and bloodless, no more strange perhaps than being possessed by the endless ramifications of cricket or trout fishing. Being consumed by numbers to the exclusion of all else, sounds deranged. The Hungarian mathematician, Paul Erdös, number theorist and combinatorialist extraordinary, eccentric, socially dysfunctional, obsessive, childishly egocentric, helplessly dependent on fellow number freaks to feed him, transport him, put him up and put up with him, was certainly outside the normal range, but not insanely so ...

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