Indiscrete Thoughts

  • Gian-Carlo Rota
  • Fabrizio Palombi

Part of the Modern Birkhäuser Classics book series (MBC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages I-XXIII
  2. Persons and Places

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 3-20
    3. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 21-38
    4. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 55-59
    5. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 60-62
    6. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 63-86
  3. Philosophy

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 87-87
    2. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 104-107
    3. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 108-120
    4. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 121-133
    5. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 134-150
    6. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 158-161
    7. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 162-171
    8. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 172-181
    9. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 182-187
    10. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 188-191
  4. Indiscrete Thoughts

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 193-193
    2. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 195-203
    3. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 209-234
    4. Gian-Carlo Rota
      Pages 235-257
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 258-280

About this book


Indiscrete Thoughts gives a glimpse into a world that has seldom been described, that of science and technology as seen through the eyes of a mathematician. The era covered by this book, 1950 to 1990, was surely one of the golden ages of science as well as of the American university.

Cherished myths are debunked along the way as Gian-Carlo Rota takes pleasure in portraying, warts and all, some of the great scientific personalities of the period —Stanislav Ulam (who, together with Edward Teller, signed the patent application for the hydrogen bomb), Solomon Lefschetz (Chairman in the 1950s of the Princeton mathematics department), William Feller (one of the founders of modern probability theory), Jack Schwartz (one of the founders of computer science), and many others.

Rota is not afraid of controversy. Some readers may even consider these essays indiscreet. After the publication of the essay "The Pernicious Influence of Mathematics upon Philosophy" (reprinted six times in five languages) the author was blacklisted in analytical philosophy circles. Indiscrete Thoughts should become an instant classic and the subject of debate for decades to come.

"Read Indiscrete Thoughts for its account of the way we were and what we have become; for its sensible advice and its exuberant rhetoric."--The Mathematical Intelligencer

"Learned, thought-provoking, politically incorrect, delighting in paradox, and likely to offend—but everywhere readable and entertaining."--The American Mathematical Monthly

"It is about mathematicians, the way they think, and the world in which they live. It is 260 pages of Rota calling it like he sees it... Readers are bound to find his observations amusing if not insightful. Gian-Carlo Rota has written the sort of book that few mathematicians could write. What will appeal immediately to anyone with an interest in research mathematics are the stories he tells about the practice of modern mathematics."--MAA Reviews


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Authors and affiliations

  • Gian-Carlo Rota
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

Editors and affiliations

  • Fabrizio Palombi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of TorinoTorinoItaly

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997
  • Publisher Name Birkhäuser, Boston, MA
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Print ISBN 978-0-8176-4780-3
  • Online ISBN 978-0-8176-4781-0
  • Series Print ISSN 2197-1803
  • Series Online ISSN 2197-1811
  • Buy this book on publisher's site