Quote for today XXI

Cover of Lagrange's Mécanique analytiqueThe reader will find no figures in this work. The methods which I set forth do not require either constructions or geometrical or mechanical reasonings: but only algebraic operations, subject to a regular and uniform rule of procedure.

(Joseph Lagrange (1736–1813), from the preface to Mécanique analytique, his book on analytical mechanics.)

The same no-pictures practice has been widely followed in physics and especially in mathematics ever since. Thinking back, I had no figures in either my M.Sc. thesis or my licentiate thesis, though I was tempted to add my advisor’s picture to the latter in the dim hope of brownie points, and the former was made a bit too “popular” by the addition of a fiftieth page that contained actual numerical examples. (Oh dear oh horror of horrors oh dear.)

After all, if we laid bare the essential simplicity of mathematics, who would pay us to do it?

Er, sorry, I was not supposed to say that. In fact I may get contour integrated for saying that. Oh dear.

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