Three Mathematicians We Lost in 2020

"...Freeman Dyson had a lot of stories. One of my favorites was about how he decided to turn from studying mathematics to studying physics. As he told me in his “Math Life” interview, he was walking down the King’s Parade in Cambridge with a friend, the future mathematician Harish-Chandra. “Harry said to me, you know, physics is so messy—I think I’ll switch from physics to mathematics. And I said, you know, it’s funny, because I just decided to switch from mathematics to physics for the same reason.” They would eventually become colleagues at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton.


The role of translator is one that Dyson took on throughout his life: he turned physics into math, and those subjects into English for the general public. One bridge that he built between math and physics was by showing that the discrete energy levels achieved by a random quantum mechanical system bear an extraordinary resemblance to certain properties of prime numbers—a statistical mystery that gave new hope for solving one of the most important open problems in mathematics, regarding the pattern with which the prime numbers appear among the integers."

Read more at The New Yorker.