Andrew Gleason

American mathematician (1921-2008)

Andrew Mattei Gleason (November 4, 1921 - October 17, 2008) was an American mathematician who made fundamental contributions to widely varied areas of mathematics, including the solution of Hilbert's fifth problem, and was a leader in reform and innovation in teaching at all levels. Gleason's theorem in quantum logic and the Greenwood–Gleason graph, an important example in Ramsey theory, are named for him.

Andrew Gleason in 1959

Quotes edit

  • It is notoriously difficult to convey the proper impression of the frontiers of mathematics to nonspecialists. Ultimately the difficulty stems from the fact that mathematics is an easier subject than the other sciences. Consequently, many of the important primary problems of the subject‍—‌that is, problems which can be understood by an intelligent outsider‍—‌have either been solved or carried to a point where an indirect approach is clearly required. The great bulk of pure mathematical research is concerned with secondary, tertiary, or higher-order problem, the very statement of which can hardly be understood until one has mastered a great deal of technical mathematics.
    • Andrew M. Gleason. "Evolution of an active mathematical theory", Science 31 (July 1964), pp. 451–457.

Quotes about Andrew Gleason edit

  • Early in his college days, Minsky had had the good fortune to encounter Andrew Gleason. Gleason was only six years older than Minsky, but he was already recognized as one of the world’s premier problem-solvers in mathematics; he seemed able to solve any well-formulated mathematics problem almost instantly... “I couldn’t understand how anyone that age could know so much mathematics,” Minsky told me. “But the most remarkable thing about him was his plan. When we were talking once, I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he was working on Hilbert’s fifth problem.” Gleason said he had a plan that consisted of three steps, each of which he thought would take him three years to work out. Our conversation must have taken place in 1947, when I was a sophomore. Well, the solution took him only about five more years... I couldn’t understand how anyone that age could understand the subject well enough to have such a plan and to have an estimate of the difficulty in filling in each of the steps. Now that I’m older, I still can’t understand it. Anyway, Gleason made me realize for the first time that mathematics was a landscape with discernible canyons and mountain passes, and things like that. In high school, I had seen mathematics simply as a bunch of skills that were fun to master—but I had never thought of it as a journey and a universe to explore. No one else I knew at that time had that vision, either.

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