A quotation by Kathleen Ollerenshaw


There is a strong parallel between mountain climbing and mathematics research. When first attempts on a summit are made, the struggle is to find any route. Once on the top, other possible routes up may be discerned and sometimes a safer or shorter route can be chosen for the descent or for subsequent ascents. In mathematics the challenge is finding a proof in the first place. Once found, almost any competent mathematician can usually find an alternative often much better and shorter proof. At least in mountaineering we know that the mountain is there and that, if we can find a way up and reach the summit, we shall triumph. In mathematics we do not always know that there is a result, or if the proposition is only a figment of the imagination, let alone whether a proof can be found.
To talk of many things: An autobiography, (Manchester 2004).


JOC/EFR May 2011

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