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The Random Walks of George Polya (Spectrum) Paperback – January 1, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

One of the giants of classical analysis in the 20th century, George Pólya had a temendous influence on the state of mathematics today. This book serves both as a biography of Pólya's life, and a review of his many mathematical achievements by experts from a wide range of different fields.

About the Author

Gerald L. Alexanderson is the Valeriote Professor of Science at Santa Clara University where he has been chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science since 1967. As a student at Stanford University he worked with George Polya and remained a friend of Polya and his wife for the next thirty or so years. Alexanderson has been President of the Mathematical Association of America and prior to that served for seven years as Secretary of the MAA. He has written numerous articles on mathematics and mathematicians and has coauthored or coedited a dozen books in the field. From 1986 to 1990 he served as editor of "Mathematics Magazine."
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Product Details

  • Series: Spectrum
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The Mathematical Association of America (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0883855283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0883855287
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,399,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
While George Polya is credited with coining the phrase "random walk", his journey through life was anything but random. Extremely influential in many areas of mathematics, his book, "How to Solve It" alone would have made a career. Like so many mathematical heavyweights of this century, his nationality was Hungarian. Given the number of mathematicians and their collective prolific output, Hungary must lead the world in per capita production of mathematical papers. Polya's first papers were published in 1912 and his last in 1987.
The range of the work is just as impressive. Many concepts now considered standard mathematical fare were products of his genius. When reading this biography, you are struck by the features of human nature that he projects. Who else would talk about the list of the three nicest mathematicians that they ever met? Would anyone else dare to also talk about the three most unpleasant mathematicians that they ever encountered? His honesty when admitting that he was intimidated by John von Neumann show a level of humility that few people of his stature would ever acknowledge.
In an era when being a lackluster to pathetic teacher is considered a prerequisite for a position as a research mathematician it is extremely refreshing to read about his qualities as a teacher and his concern for the profession. He was an existence proof of the reality that it is possible to be both. His contributions to the field of teaching are as strong as those in any other area of his expertise.
Biographies of mathematicians sometimes degenerate into lists of life accomplishments emphasizing the major formulas and proofs of their lives. In others, the person comes across as a solid professional, but there seems to be little else to their life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Palle E T Jorgensen VINE VOICE on June 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Even if you aren't in math, I think you are likely to be caught up in the drama of George Polya and the various lives, the times, and the events that he touched. The writing is fast paced and engaging, much like that of Constance Reid's books: "Hilbert", or "Courant"... Through its appendices [by K.L. Chung, R. P. Boas, M. M. Schiffer...], this lovely book further gives you some insight into the math that underlies the stories. Other characters in the book: G. Szego, L. Fejer, J von Neumann, G. H. Hardy, H. Weyl, E. Landau, ...Through the book, the reader gets to experience the tumultous historical period that spans the long career of G. Polya: His life includes the main centers of science and math in Europe in the Golden period between the two World Wars. The second part is Polya's life of teaching and research in the US, at Stanford University. I was a guest at Polya's ninetieths birthday. It has been said that mathematicians have been more likely than others to have been uprooted in the upheavals of history, perhaps because they are concerned with theories and ideas that are more universal.
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The Random Walks of George Polya (Spectrum)
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