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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: August 2014



It will be clear by now that, if we are to have any chance of making progress, I must produce examples of ‘real’ mathematical theorems, theorems which every mathematician will admit to be first-rate. And here I am very heavily handicapped by the restrictions under which I am writing. On the one hand my examples must be very simple, and intelligible to a reader who has no specialized mathematical knowledge; no elaborate preliminary explanations must be needed; and a reader must be able to follow the proofs as well as the enunciations. These conditions exclude, for instance, many of the most beautiful theorems of the theory of numbers, such as Fermat's ‘two square’ theorem or the law of quadratic reciprocity. And on the other hand my examples should be drawn from ‘pukka’ mathematics, the mathematics of the working professional mathematician; and this condition excludes a good deal which it would be comparatively easy to make intelligible but which trespasses on logic and mathematical philosophy.

I can hardly do better than go back to the Greeks. I will state and prove two of the famous theorems of Greek mathematics. They are ‘simple’ theorems, simple both in idea and in execution, but there is no doubt at all about their being theorems of the highest class.