The Phenomenology of Mathematical Beauty

  • Gian-Carlo Rota
Part of the Modern Birkhäuser Classics book series (MBC)


Whereas painters and musicians are likely to be embarrassed by references to the beauty of their work, mathematicians enjoy discussions of the beauty of mathematics. Professional artists stress the technical rather than the aesthetic aspects of their work. Mathematicians, instead, are fond of passing judgment on the beauty of their favored pieces of mathematics. A cursory observation shows that the characteristics of mathematical beauty are at variance with those of artistic beauty. Courses in “art appreciation” are fairly common; it is unthinkable to find any “mathematical beauty appreciation” courses. We will try to uncover the sense of the term “beauty” as it is used by mathematicians.


Mathematical Truth Mathematical Creativity Minority View Professional Artist Mathematical Beauty 
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End Notes

  1. [1]
    G. F. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1967.MATHGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    David Hilbert, Die Grundlagen der Geometrie, 7th ed., B. G. Teubner, Leipzig, 1930.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Emil Artin, Galois Theory, Notre Dame Mathematical Expositions, University of Notre Dame, 1941.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    David Hilbert, Die Theorie der Algebraischen Zahlkörper, Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematikverenigung, Vol. IV 175-546.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    H. Weber, Lehrbuch der Algebra, 3 vols, Braunschweig, Vieweg, 1895–96.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gian-Carlo Rota
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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