Vladimir Arnold

Russian mathematician who studied integrable systems and differential equations (1937–2010)

Vladimir Igorevich Arnold (alternative spelling Arnol'd, Russian: Влади́мир И́горевич Арно́льд, 12 June 19373 June 2010) was a Russian mathematician famous for his work on the KAM theorem regarding the stability of integrable systems, who made important contributions in dynamical systems theory, catastrophe theory, topology, algebraic geometry, symplectic geometry, differential equations, classical mechanics and singularity theory.

In the middle of the twentieth century it was attempted to divide physics and mathematics. The consequences turned out to be catastrophic.


  • At the beginning of this century a self-destructive democratic principle was advanced in mathematics (especially by Hilbert), according to which all axiom systems have equal right to be analyzed, and the value of a mathematical achievement is determined, not by its significance and usefulness as in other sciences, but by its difficulty alone, as in mountaineering. This principle quickly led mathematicians to break from physics and to separate from all other sciences. In the eyes of all normal people, they were transformed into a sinister priestly caste . . . Bizarre questions like Fermat's problem or problems on sums of prime numbers were elevated to supposedly central problems of mathematics.
    • "Will Mathematics Survive? Report on the Zurich Congress" in The Mathematical Intelligencer, Vol. 17, no. 3 (1995), pp. 6–10.
  • In the middle of the twentieth century it was attempted to divide physics and mathematics. The consequences turned out to be catastrophic. Whole generations of mathematicians grew up without knowing half of their science and, of course, in total ignorance of any other sciences. They first began teaching their ugly scholastic pseudo-mathematics to their students, then to schoolchildren (forgetting Hardy's warning that ugly mathematics has no permanent place under the Sun).
    • "On teaching mathematics", as translated by A. V. Goryunov, in Russian Mathematical Surveys Vol. 53, no. 1 (1998), p. 229–236.
  • It is almost impossible for me to read contemporary mathematicians who, instead of saying “Petya washed his hands,” write simply: “There is a   such that the image of   under the natural mapping   belongs to the set of dirty hands, and a  ,  , such that the image of   under the above-mentioned mapping belongs to the complement of the set defined in the preceding sentence.”
  • A person, who had not mastered the art of the proofs in high school, is as a rule unable to distinguish correct reasoning from that which is misleading. Such people can be easily manipulated by the irresponsible politicians.
    • "The antiscientifical revolution and mathematics" (1998, Vatican).
  • In the last 30 years, the prestige of mathematics has declined in all countries. I think that mathematicians are partially to be blamed as well—foremost, Hilbert and Bourbaki—the ones who proclaimed that the goal of their science was investigation of all corollaries of arbitrary systems of axioms.
    • Interview translated from the Russian into English and republished in the book Boris A. Khesin; Serge L. Tabachnikov (editors), Arnold: Swimming Against the Tide (2014) Google Books preview pages 4–5.
  • All mathematics is divided into three parts: cryptography (paid for by CIA, KGB and the like), hydrodynamics (supported by manufacturers of atomic submarines) and celestial mechanics (financed by military and by other institutions dealing with missiles, such as NASA.).
    • "Polymathematics: is mathematics a single science or a set of arts?", in Mathematics: Frontiers and Perspectives (2000), edited by V. I. Arnold, M. Atiyah, P. Lax, and B. Mazur, pp. 403–416.
  • "In almost all textbooks, even the best, this principle is presented so that it is impossible to understand." (K. Jacobi, Lectures on Dynamics, 1842-1843). I have not chosen to break with tradition.
    • Vladimir I. Arnold, Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics
  • Such axioms, together with other unmotivated definitions, serve mathematicians mainly by making it difficult for the uninitiated to master their subject, thereby elevating its authority.
    • Vladimir I. Arnold, "Ordinary Differential Equations", 3rd edition, p. 58.

Quotes about ArnoldEdit

  • Let me just say that Arnold was a geometer in the widest possible sense of the word, and that he was very fast to make connections between different fields.
    • Michèle Audin, in "Vladimir Igorevich Arnold and the Invention of Symplectic Topology", chapter 1 in the book Contact and Symplectic Topology (editors: Frédéric Bourgeois, Vincent Colin, András Stipsicz), ISBN: 978-3-319-02035-8 (print), 978-3-319-02036-5 (on-line). link.

External linksEdit

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