Paul Erdös dead at 83

Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdös died on Friday, September 20, in Warsaw, where he was attending the minisemester in combinatorics. He was 83. News of his death reached the mathematical community via an email message from mathematician Miki Simonovits (of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), and then was quickly rebroadcast by email around the world.

Paul Erdös was well known even outside mathematical circles for his singular dedication to mathematics, which resulted in his living as a "mathematical pilgrim" for much of his life. He was known as a poser and solver of problems, but his problems often seemed to lead to deep theories which were then explored by others. By his trips and by his collaboration with other mathematicians, Erdös stimulated an enormous amount of mathematical activity. His contributions to number theory and to combinatorics were immense.

Erdös was the subject of a very interesting article in Atlantic magazine in 1987 and of a documentary entitled N is a Number (available through the MAA). He was one of the giants of mathematics in the twentieth century.

Erdös had so many collaborators that he introduced the notion of the Erdös number of a mathematician. Anyone who has written a joint paper with Erdös has Erdös number 1. If you have written a paper with someone whose Erdös number is 1, your Erdös number is 2. In general, your Erdös number counts the number of collaborations that link you to Erdös. See the Erdös Number Project page for more on Erdös Numbers.

Additional Information on the death of Paul Erdös can be found at:
New York Times
Search the Washington Post

MAA Online is edited by Fernando Q. Gouvêa
Last modified: Sat Oct 5 09:35:32 1996