After yesterday’s “race day“, it seems only fair to spend a few moments thinking about winners. Specifically about Nobel prize winners. And, more specifically, about mathematicians who have won Nobel prizes. (Note that there is no Nobel prize for mathematics.)
Sundays newspaper (El Público) ran a story on Echegaray, who they rightly said sounds more like a street name than anything else. He was a mathematician, but he won the Nobel prize for literature.
García Márquez described him as:
“uno de los dramaturgos más deplorables que parió la madre España, ilustre matemático a quien Dios tenga en su santo reino”
– basically, ‘an illustrious mathematician, but a deplorable playwright’.
What I particularly liked about the story was the quotation:
“Si yo hubiera sido rico […] me hubiera dedicado exclusivamente a las matemáticas. Ni más dramas, ni más argumentos terribles […] Pero el cultivo de las altas Matemáticas no da lo bastante para vivir”
It translates roughly as:
“If I’d been rich […] I’d have dedicated my life exclusively to maths. No dramas nor dreadful plot lines […] But you can’t make a living from pure maths.”
And it reassures me to think there are even less lucrative careers than writing. Particularly as, long ago, I was all set to make a career of maths.