Old(er) mathematicians

Mathematics is a discipline for young people.

Most of the greatest mathematicians in history started very early their work and, often, they had the best results when still very young.

I believe, anyway, that there is still some space for older mathematicians…

After some research, I ended up with this funny list:

  • Joan Birman got her PhD when she was 41, she did a great job in several areas among which braid theory;
  •  Eugène Ehrhart got his PhD when he was… 60;
  • Albrecht Fröhlich worked on Galois theory (there is even a prize named after him); he got his PhD when he was 36;
  • George Green was an autodidact that did undergrad studies when he was 40; apparently Albert Einstein commented that Green had been 20 years ahead of his time.

But the most striking case is, for me, Preda Mihăilescu: he got his PhD when he was 42 and just a few years later he gave the proof of the 158-year-old Catalan’s conjecture.

A more scientific study examined the correlation between age and scientific creativity but I believe that, after all, it is not only a matter of age.

Check this very touching blog post by Tanya Khovanova to understand what I mean…

Author: CarmineCella

Carmine-Emanuele Cella is a weekend-pilot; he wanted to be a mathematician but he ended up in writing music that nobody understands. Freud would say about him that he received too much love during his infancy but his psychologist just says that he should accept himself as he is. He loves life and he teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

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