Though this is a picture of Sir Isaac - in his stunning regalia, right before he is about to hit up the club and drop it like it's hot - he's an example of someone mystified by the domain of numbers, and GH Hardy attempts to explore this domain in his essay. Alright forget it - I'm just going to talk about what's interesting about it. Here goes:
I was about fifteen when my ambitions took a sharper turn. There is a book by 'Alan St. Aubyn' called A fellow of Trinity, one of a series dealing with what is supposed to be Cambridge college life... There are two heroes, a primary hero called Flowers, who is almost wholly good, and a secondary hero, a much weaker vessel, called Brown. Flowers and Brown find many dangers in University life, but the worst is a gambling saloon in Chesterton run by the Misses Bellenden, two fascinating but extremely wicked young ladies. Flowers survives all these troubles, is Second Wrangler and Senior Class, and succeeds automatially to a Fellowship (as I suppose he would have done then.) Brown succumbs, ruins his parents, takes to drink, is saved from delirium tremens during a thunderstorm only by the prayers of the Junior Dean, has much difficulty in obtaining even an Ordinary Degree, and ultimately becomes a missionary. The fiendship is not shattered by these unhappy events, and Flower's thoughts stray to Brown, with affectionate pity, as he drinks port and eats Walnurts for the first time in Senior Combination room.What's intriguing is 1) [not mentioned in this paragraph] but from a young age he viewed math as a competitive type sport.. and 2).. math was his claim to fame - his way to gain fellowship. But digging deeper here's something more intriguing 3) what about poor Brown, who, perhaps through no fault of his own, is not 'genetically protected via Nature' from Drink.. more likely to succumb.. and all of a sudden his life is in ruin, graduate's second class, and is not given the World's esteem like Flowers. Talk about unfair, and talk about idiot pretentious Flowers, who doesn't realize this. What's more interesting is this is just the way humans and society works, the succumbers 'work themselves out' - and those who can survive stay - though perhaps thinking it is through sheer will that they have become who they are. This gets into moral responsibility - which is a conundrum for philosophers = the more humanity discovers how we are not equal - how their are imbalances - and how addicts, 'manics', the messed in mind are inclined to odd behaviors - the more problems arise from this because people must face their prejudices ( "we are not all angels and our souls do not fly free - E.O Wilson"). It's sort of humerous that perhaps people with some sort of trait charactertized by lack of moral revolt in performing certain acts are killed rather than 'fixed/understood' when they commit crimes - another topic altogether.
Now Flowers was a decent enough fellow, but even my sophisticated mind refused to accept him as clever. If he could do these things, why not I?
Anyway, you could go on and on with Flowers and this particular story, because it's very interesting. But the Gold of Hardy's thing is how he describes math, he suggests math is simply patterns (which it is) and that there is a beauty to this (like beauty to poetry, which is a pattern of words, which don't neccessarily have to hold truth to reality, he gives an example). Math is just like a painting - the derivative of sin is cosine, cosine's is - sin. sin squared plus cos squared is 1.. etc. there are patterns to the paintings, which are neat and fun to pick out. I came across his essay by accident earlier, having brought the wrong volume of a book and opening to his essay on the first flip, and then also I read of two mathematicians who claimed this essay in particular is why math 'grinds their gears;.
Anyway, interesting interesting.