Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | March 4, 2009

A childhood story: Robin Harte

I have a curious memory for you, I probably got into mathematics as an escape from physics which in turn was an escape from Latin and Greek — my father was a school teacher who taught Latin and Greek and it was important to me to stay as far as possible from that — I was at the same school where he taught Latin and Greek which was bad karma.

Any way I went to physics classes (and was told that I had to do extra maths if I wanted to do physics) and at one point our physics teacher was explaining something later called flux, which he described as “the number of lines of force”.

What I want to recall is a subconscious awareness that something was out of kilter: nothing was said, but this quantity seemed not necessarily to be a whole number and that seemed to bother me.

So in the sixth form at school I believe I had some kind of mathematical sense I can also report small hairs standing up on the back of my neck the first time I met differentiation.

I did go on to do mathematics in Trinity College Dublin, and a PhD in Cambridge, and never really to escape the system.

[For the description of the project, read I need your stories.]

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