Thursday, June 19, 2014

Egyenletesen sürü számsorozatok

We have oft lamented, how … hard things are, particularly in math and physics.  Let alone actually coming up with any worthwhile contributions yourself, nor even simply “keeping up with the literature”, but merely :  taking in -- understanding one wrok of -- classic work done forty years, fifty years, a century ago.

I have on my nightstand  volume one of John von Neumann’s Collected Works (so titled, in English, and published in 1961).   Now, most Americans, myself certainly included, think of von Neumann -- “Johnny” to those who knew him -- as a Princeton luminary equal to those of Gödel and Einstein, and who, even more than they, was significantly responsible for ushering American into the front ranks of modern math and science, and best known to the general public as the co-author of the Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944), whose subsequent significance has only grown.
Yet those more familiar with the man will also be aware that he was born in Budapest, where he attended a German-speaking high school, eventually pursuing post-graduate studies in Switzerland and teaching at the University of Berlin.  He moved to Princeton in 1930 (a wise move, as things turned out), and remained there to the end of his days.

Accordingly, the reader confronted with his Collected Works, will be prepared for many of the early papers to be in German.   For this reader, that presents no problem at all.  But in any event, the Pergamon Press has organized this collection, not by date, but by topic, the first volume containing  “Logic, Theory of Sets, and Quantum Mechanics” (spot the odd man out, but anyway).   For the technical reader, rather than the biographer, that is convenient and commendable.  (Cf. the philologian Hugo Schuchardt, in “Sachen und Wörter”, second paragraph:  Stofflich geordnete Glossare  gewähren manche Aufklärung, die in alphabetische geordneten vermißt sind.”)   And you would expect that, thus organized, each volume would contain a mixture of articles in German and (later) English, with the exception of those treating of the theory of automata, or the game theory, which he never wrote about before coming to America, since he invented both of them here.

Yet the first volume contains no single article in English -- but does have one in Hungarian, whose title I have placed in the subject-field of this post,  pour épouvanter les enfants.

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