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N is a Number

A Portrait of Paul Erdős

A man with no home and no job, Paul Erdős was the most prolific mathematician who ever lived.

Born in Hungary in 1913, Erdős wrote and co-authored over 1,500 papers and pioneered several fields in theoretical mathematics. At the age of 83 he still spent most of his time on the road, going from math meeting to math meeting, continually working on problems. He died on September 20, 1996 while attending such a meeting in Warsaw, Poland.

The film opens at Cambridge University's 1991 honorary doctorate ceremony, where Erdös received an award he says he would gladly trade for a "nice new proof." For Erdős, the meaning of life is "to prove and conjecture."

In an age dominated by technical wizardry and high tech communications, Erdős was an unusual human link connecting hundreds of people. As he traveled from country to country, Erdős carried with him the latest in mathematical thinking, inspiring others to develop new ideas and, sometimes, entire new fields.

In turn, the mathematical community supported this repository of centuries of mathematical knowledge and lore. Every mathematician in the world has an "Erdős Number" – the number of people he or she is removed from having co-authored a paper with Erdős.

Graph of the Erdős Number

Get to know this exceptional mathematician.

George Csicsery
Paul Erdős
Mathematical Topics
Discrete mathematics
Probability theory
Number theory
Prime number
Graph theory
Mathematical proof
Paul Erdős
57 minutes 22 seconds
Year of Release
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