[FOM] Pure mathematics and humanity's collective curiosity

Alasdair Urquhart urquhart at cs.toronto.edu
Tue Oct 16 09:18:12 EDT 2007

I think all mathematics is potentially applicable.  When I was
an undergraduate, I studied logic from Paul Rosenbloom's
excellent Dover paperback "Elements of Mathematical Logic."
I was fascinated by his exposition of combinatory logic.
However, I thought it was just about the most nonapplicable
part of logic I had ever seen.  I was amazed when a few decades
later combinators turned out to be very useful for computer
programmers, particularly people involved in the Strategic
Defence Initiative under the Reagan presidency.  After
that I resolved never to declare any part of mathematics

One could go on to give many more examples of mathematics
that was initially thought to have no applications --
group theory, higher dimensional
geometry, graph theory, etc. etc.

Alasdair Urquhart

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