Serge Lang

French-American mathematician (1927–2005)

Serge Lang (May 19, 1927September 12, 2005) was a French-born American mathematician.

Serge Lang in 2004


  • Last time, I asked: "What does mathematics mean to you?" And some people answered: "The manipulations of numbers, the manipulation of structures." And if I had asked what music means to you, would you have answered: "The manipulation of notes?"
    • "The beauty of doing mathematics: Three public dialogues", chapter. 2: *A lively activity: To do mathematics*, pp. 31.
  • I don't like the nonsense that passes for rational discourse so often in our society. I am very much bothered by the inaccuracies, ambiguities, code words, slogans, catch phrases, public relation devices, sweeping generalizations, and stereotypes, which are used (consciously or otherwise) to influence people.
I am bothered by the inability of many to recognize these for what they are. I am bothered by the way people fudge issues, or are unable to clarify them, sometimes because they are inhibited by "collegiality" and other forms of intimidation (sometimes subtle, sometimes not). Most people put up with the nonsense without doing anything about it (unable or unwilling, for whatever reason - inertia, lack, of energy, lack of interest, lack of time, etc.), often falling into cynicism and despair.
I am bothered by the misinformation which gets disseminated uncritically through the media and by the obstructions which prevent correct information from being disseminated. These obstructions come about in many ways - personal, institutional, through self-imposed inhibitions, through external inhibitions, through outright dishonesty, through incompetence - the list is a long one.
I am bothered by the way misinformation, disguised as scholarship, is used in social, political, and educational contexts to affect policy decisions.
I am bothered by the way misinformation is accepted uncritically, and by the way people are unable to recognize it or reject it.
  • This is part of Lang's campaign in his attempt to discredit the results of The 1977 survey of the American professoriate published in 1979 by Everett C Ladd and Seymour M Lipsett. In 1981 Lang published The File: Case Study in Correction (1977-1979) which consists of copies of correspondence concerning the survey. In this quote from The File Lang sets out why he fought that campaign.
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