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Hardy, Godfrey Harold

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(1877–1947) British mathematician: developed new work in analysis and number theory.

Hardy was the son of an art teacher; he was a precocious child, whose tricks included factorizing hymn-numbers during sermons. His early mathematical ability won him a scholarship to Winchester School and then another to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected a Fellow. In 1919 he became Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, but returned to Cambridge in 1931 as professor of pure mathematics.

Hardy’s early research was on particularly difficult integrals and he also produced a new proof of the prime number theorem: that the number of primes not exceeding x approaches x /log e x when x approaches infinity. He began to collaborate with his close friend J E Littlewood (1885–1977) on research into the partitioning of numbers, on the conjecture (that every even number is the sum of two prime numbers, still unproved) and later the zeta-function. Together they wrote nearly 100 papers during 35 years.

In 1908 Hardy and W Weinberg (1862–1937) discovered independently a law fundamental to population genetics. It describes the genetic equilibrium of a large random-mating population and shows that the ratio of dominant to recessive genes does not vary down the generations. This was strong support for theory of evolution by natural selection. It was Hardy’s only venture into applied mathematics.

Hardy was an excellent teacher and introduced a modern rigorous approach to analysis. He encouraged the young Indian genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887–1920), bringing him to Cambridge to do research. Hardy was a staunch anti-Christian, a firm friend of Bertrand Russell and a passionate and talented cricketer and ‘real tennis’ player.

Hareven, Tamara K. (1937–) - U.S. Social History [next] [back] Hardwick, Gary

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