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



It was a perfectly ordinary night at Christ's high table, except that Hardy was dining as a guest. He had just returned to Cambridge as Sadleirian professor, and I had heard something of him from young Cambridge mathematicians. They were delighted to have him back: he was a real mathematician, they said, not like those Diracs and Bohrs the physicists were always talking about: he was the purest of the pure. He was also unorthodox, eccentric, radical, ready to talk about anything. This was 1931, and the phrase was not yet in English use, but in later days they would have said that in some indefinable way he had star quality.

So, from lower down the table, I kept studying him. He was then in his early fifties: his hair was already grey, above skin so deeply sunburnt that it stayed a kind of Red Indian bronze. His face was beautiful—high cheek bones, thin nose, spiritual and austere but capable of dissolving into convulsions of internal gamin-like amusement. He had opaque brown eyes, bright as a bird's—a kind of eye not uncommon among those with a gift for conceptual thought. Cambridge at that time was full of unusual and distinguished faces—but even then, I thought that night, Hardy's stood out.