Hadamard on Hermite

Hadamard wrote a fascinating article translated into English as How I did not discover relativity which appeared in volume 10, part 2, of the Mathematical Intelligencer in 1988. On page 66 of that article Hadamard wrote about meetings he had with Hermite in 1924:-


When I was a young student, a happy circumstance enabled me to visit the master regularly for a few minutes. At the time, he was making a deep impression on us, not only with his methods and those of Weierstrass, but also with his enthusiasm and love of science; in our brief but fruitful conversations, Hermite loved to direct to me remarks such as: "He who strays from the paths traced by Providence crashes." These were the words of a profoundly religious man, but an atheist like me understood them very well, especially when he added at other times: "In mathematics, our role is more that of servant than master." It goes without saying that gradually, as years and my scientific work unfolded, I came to understand more and more deeply the aptness and scope of his words.


JOC/EFR March 2006

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