Information about Paul Erdös (1913–1996)
This page attempts to provide references and/or links to all available information about Paul Erdös. If you know of any other such information, please let us know. In particular, if you’d like to write some personal reminiscences about Paul (or anything else you feel would be appropriate) and want your thoughts to be available on the Web, please send us either the URL (preferred) or an electronic copy of what you’d like posted (with an assurance that to post it would not violate any copyrights). If you find any of our links no longer valid, we’d appreciate knowing that. [The picture above is of a sculpture of Paul Erdös by Gabriella Bollobas, posted with the artist’s permission.]
Items and links of general interest
- The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive has a biography.
- There is a very complete site with the contents of a CD-ROM about Erdös produced in 1998.
- A portion of National Public Radio's Radiolab program broadcast on or around October 9, 2009 is about Paul Erdös and Erdös numbers. Details and podcast are available here.
- The Computer Science Department at the University of Chicago has an excellent page in memory of Paul Erdös, which includes pictures, quotations, links, and articles about Erdös and his work.
- There is an item on Paul Erdös and Erdös numbers on the Meta-Filter Community Blog, November 18, 2003.
- There was a radio program about Erdös on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Science Magazine has a short article about Erdös numbers, citing our work.
- There is a page devoted to Paul set up by the mathematics department at Eötvös University, and more information, including copies of most of his papers, from the Mathematical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (both in Budapest).
- Thane Plambeck has developed a website with some interesting Paul Erdös archives, as part of a site dedicated to the memory of David Klarner. It includes a letter from Erdös to Klarner.
- There is a page devoted to Paul set up by the mathematics department at Technion, Israel Institute of Technology
- Paul Nevai has a page with many links to material about Paul Erdös.
- Tommy R. Jensen and Bjarne Toft have a Web page with some more information about Paul Erdös.
- A conference on Paul Erdös and his mathematics was held in Hungary in July, 1999.
- Jerrold Griggs has a nice collection of photographs of Paul Erdös, and Ermelinda DeLaVina has posted a photo of Erdös with her adviser Siemion Fajtlowicz in 1992.
- A cousin of Paul Erdös has issued an appeal for information and an offer to provide the same.
Books about Paul Erdös and his work
- The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdös and the Search for Mathematical Truth by Paul Hoffman (Hyperion, 1998). The book can be ordered from amazon.com. There have been several reviews of this book (and the one mentioned next); here is one in the AMS Notices by Paul Halmos. Here is a review from The New York Times. Here is a review by Mel Henriksen (of this book and the following one).
- My Brain Is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdös by Bruce Schechter (1998). The book can be ordered from amazon.com. Here is a review from The New York Times. Here is a review by Mel Henriksen (of this book and the previous one).
- The Mathematics of Paul Erdös, second edition, comes in volumes one and two, edited by Ronald Graham and Jaroslav Nesetril.
- Combinatorics, Paul Erdös is Eighty, in two volumes, edited by D. Miklós, V. T. Sós and T. Szönyi, published by the János Bolyai Mathematical Society, Budapest (1993 and 1996). This work contains papers by many prominent authors—with information both about Paul Erdös and about his mathematics. Volume 2 contains an excellent 88-page biographical article by László Babai entitled “In and Out of Hungary: Paul Erdös, His Friends, and Times”; an abridged version is available on the author’s website (see also this page). This volume also contains Erdös’s own paper entitled “On some of my favourite theorems”.
- Erdös on Graphs: His Legacy of Unsolved Problems by Fan Chung and Ron Graham. This book was published in January 1998 by A K Peters, Ltd., ISBN 1-56881-079-2.
- Proofs From The Book by Martin Aigner and Günther M. Ziegler (Springer, fourth edition, 2009).
- The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös by Deborah Heiligman (Roaring Brook Press, 2013). This delightful book is for children ages 6 and up.
Films (and items in other media) about Paul Erdös
- N is a Number, a wonderful documentary film by George Paul Csicsery, which can be ordered from amazon.com.
- National Public Radio’s 1998 discussion of strange scientists (their term), including Paul Hoffman talking about Paul Erdös. Click here for a related NPR show, on Math and the Media. One can also view a lecture given by Paul Hoffman in 2000 entitled “The Man Who Loved Only Numbers”, describing the life and work of Paul Erdös:
- Zentralblatt MATH published a CD-ROM entitled Paul Erdös in Zentralblatt MATH: Reviews of His Papers and Articles about His Life, on the occasion of the 1998 International Congress of Mathematicicans in Berlin. Contents: Introduction by B. Wegner, Pictures of Erdös, Papers about Erdös’s life and work, Articles and books of and about Erdös reviewed in Zentrallblatt MATH 1931-1998, Bibliography compiled by J. Grossman, References to Documents in the World Wide Web. It is now available on the Web.
- There is a pub on a little street behind Eotvos University in Budapest that was renamed the Erdös Cafe. It is right next to the math and physics departments. At last report it was padlocked because of unstable conditions in the neighborhood, as shown in this photo.
- The subject of this website is not the only famous Paul Erdös. There is another Paul Erdös listed in Mathematical Reviews, a physicist. There is also the Paul Erdös who was a long-time market research executive and an authority on mail surveys. He died on July 2, 2000 in Manhattan at the age of 86. According to an obituary in The New York Times, he and Arthur Morgan founded the market research firm Erdos & Morgan in 1947, which specialized in mail surveys.
- John Kiltinen has written a song about Paul Erdös. The tune is based on a Finnish song, which one can see performed on YouTube.
- Here is a letter written by Paul Erdös to Arnold Ross at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana) in 1954. Paul was in Amsterdam for the International Congress of Mathematicians, and he was having difficulty getting a re-entry visa to the United States.
Memorials, reminiscences, and other items related to Erdös’s death on September 20, 1996
The following message from Miklós Simonovits was posted on the Internet on September 21, 1996:
Paul Erdös died Friday afternoon (20 September 1996) in Warsaw. Early morning he felt some health problems, in a hotel in Warsaw. So he was carried into a hospital, where he died in the afternoon. He was 83.
As far as I know, he had a heart attack, rather serious, very early in the morning, in this Warsaw hotel, where he stayed while visiting the Minisemester for Combinatorics (for two weeks), gave two lectures. Vera Sós and András Sárközy are leaving Budapest for Warsaw right now, Saturday morning, and Paul’s original plans were to fly from Warsaw to Vilnius (for the Kubilius Conference) with Vera and András together, on Sunday.
The doctor informed us that he had two heart attacks and the second one killed him. (Perhaps even the first one was serious enough to prevent him from communicating to his surrounding. This may explain e.g. that he could not reach the mathematicians. We learned about his heart attacks only after his death.)
- Miklós Simonovits (e-mail: email@example.com; phone at the Mathematical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences: (361)-1173-151 or (361)-1173-050), with Gyula Katona, László Lovász, and Vera T. Sós, arranged a memorial service in Budapest on Friday, October 18, 1996, followed by a scientific meeting devoted to Paul and his mathematics the following day.
- The Economist has an article, posted here by implicit permission of the publisher.
- The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) website has a nice article by Melvin Henriksen.
- There are two articles on the life and works of Paul Erdös in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, January 1998. One is by László Babai, Carl Pomerance, and Péter Vértesi; the other is by Babai and Joel Spencer.
- Richard Guy and Joel Spencer, among others, gave talks at a special memorial tribute to Paul Erdös at the January 1997 American Mathematical Society meeting in San Diego, and have agreed to have their essays posted here. Click on the form desired: guy.latex, guy.ps, guy.pdf, spencer.latex, spencer.ps, spencer.pdf.
- Allen Schwenk has an article “Remembering Uncle Paul” in the Spring 1997 Newsletter of the Michigan Section of the MAA.
- The late Gian-Carlo Rota wrote a short article, which appeared in the on-line version of SIAM News (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics).
- Alexander Ivic published a reminisce in Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde (15, No. 1–2 (1997), 79–89), posted here with permission.
- Peter Cameron has a memoir of Paul Erdös available in pdf format.
- Babai has an article on Erdös in the December 1996 SIGACT News. He also has a paper called Paul Erdös just left town and another entitled Paul Erdös (1913-1996): His Influence on the Theory of Computing.
- National Public Radio’s All Things Considered had an interview with Ron Graham in September, 1996 (audio not available).
- An issue of the quarterly Geombinatorics is dedicated entirely to the memory of Paul Erdös. It includes essays by Paul Erdös and Janos Pach, Branko Grunbaum, Peter Horak, Paul Kainen, Jaroslav Nesetril, Alexander Soifer, and Bohdan Zelinka. It contains a pencil portrait of Paul Erdös by J. Nesetril and four photographs. The editors have made this issue available for individual purchase. Details can be found at their website.
URL = http://www.oakland.edu/enp/erdosdeath.html
This page was last updated on July 8, 2015.
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