On Mathematics, Commencement Lecture at the University of Costa Rica
Dear Mr. Minister, Dear Mr. Rector, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I consider it a great honour to have been invited to deliver this commencement address in the far away, beautiful and peaceful land of Costa Rica; the homeland of my life long friend and erstwhile college roommate Rudolfo Gurdian.
I stand before you as a card carrying “Mathematician” and as such am in the very unusual position of having this large, distinguished, and captive audience to whom I can extol the beauty and the accomplishments of my subject. I say unusual, because the very word “mathematics” strikes terror in the hearts of most human beings. In fact, it is for this reason that I sometimes — say when an attractive young lady settles next to me on a long plane ride — claim to be a physicist, or an ex-engineer. But when eventually the truth emerges the reaction is nearly universally the following: “Oh I am afraid that mathematics was my worst subject!” Then: “You must be very bright!” and finally, after a pause: “I wish...