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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: June 2014

14 - Hardy and Littlewood

Summary

THE HARDY-LITTLEWOOD PARTNERSHIP

The mathematical collaboration of Godfrey Harold Hardy and John Edensor Littlewood is the most remarkable and successful partnership in mathematical history. From before the First World War until Hardy's death in 1947 these mathematical giants produced around one hundred joint papers of enormous influence covering a wide range of topics in pure mathematics. Whereas many other mathematicians have collaborated on a short-term basis, there are no other examples of such a long and fruitful partnership.

Hardy and Littlewood dominated the English mathematical scene for the first half of the twentieth century. Throughout the nineteenth century, mathematical life in England, especially in pure mathematics, had been dwarfed by developments on the Continent, and although Cambridge had produced some outstanding applied mathematicians, such as James Clerk Maxwell, George Gabriel Stokes, and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), there were few pure mathematicians of world class other than Arthur Cayley in Cambridge and James Joseph Sylvester in Oxford. The situation changed with Hardy and Littlewood, who created a school of mathematical analysis unequalled throughout the world. As one contemporary colleague observed: ‘Nowadays, there are only three really great English mathematicians, Hardy, Littlewood, and Hardy-Littlewood.’

As frequently happens in collaborative partnerships, the styles and personalities of the two men were very different. Both were mathematical geniuses, completely devoted to their subject, and with many interests in common.