Thursday, March 26, 2015

Paul Erdos (March 26, 1913)

Haaretz today commemorated the birthday of Paul Erdos: "This Day in Jewish History / An eccentric mathematician who spent a lifetime crashing with friends is born: A friend, on Paul Erdos: ‘A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.’" by David B. Green.

From the article: Erdos with Terrence Tao in 1985.
A little more about Erdos, who was born in Hungary, and lived an eccentric nomadic life, despite offers of permanent jobs in mathematics:
"In 1984, when he won the prestigious Wolf Prize in Mathematics, he used nearly all of the $50,000 award to endow a prize in memory of his parents, which is presented by the Israel Mathematical Union. 
"Although Erdos lacked many social graces, he had an innocence and generosity that brought him countless friends and collaborators – more than 500 different people co-authored papers with him. Hence arose the concept of an “Erdos number,” by which people denote the degree of separation between them and Erdos, beginning with one degree for those who actually worked directly with him. Some 200,000 mathematicians are said to have assigned themselves Erdos numbers." -- from the article.

Monday, March 23, 2015

S.Y.Agnon (July 17, 1888)

I don't know how I missed S.Y.Agnon in my list of heroes! He won the Nobel Prize in 1966 for a lifetime of writing fiction.

From the Nobel Prize Committee website:
Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970) was born in Buczacz, Eastern Galicia. Raised in a mixed cultural atmosphere, in which Yiddish was the language of the home, and Hebrew the language of the Bible and the Talmud which he studied formally until the age of nine, Agnon also acquired a knowledge of German literature from his mother, and of the teachings of Maimonides and of the Hassidim from his father. In 1907 he left home and made his way to Palestine, where, except for an extended stay in Germany from 1913 to 1924, he has remained to this day. 
At an early age, Agnon began writing the stories which form a chronicle of the decline of Jewry in Galicia. Included among these is his first major publication,Hakhnasat Kalah (The Bridal Canopy), 1922, which re-creates the golden age of Hassidism, and his apocalyptic novel, Oreach Nata Lalun (A Guest for the Night), 1939, which vividly depicts the ruin of Galicia after the First World War. Nearly all of his other writings are set in his adopted Palestine and deal with the replacement of the early Jewish settlement of that country by the more organized Zionist movement after the Second World War. The early pioneer immigrants are portrayed in his epic Temol Shilshom (Only Yesterday), 1945, considered his greatest work, and also in the nightmarish stories of Sefer Hamaasim (The Book of Deeds), 1932.
While these and other works such as Pat Shlema (A Whole Loaf), 1933, andShevuat Emunim (Two Tales), 1943, are enough to assure his stature as the greatest living Hebrew writer, Agnon has also occupied himself with commentaries on the Jewish High Festival, Yamin Noraim (Days of Awe), 1938, on the giving of the Torah, Atem Reitem (Ye Have Seen), 1959, and on the gathering of Hassidic lore, Sifreihem Shel Tzadikim (Books of the Tzadikim), 1960-1961.

Recent Golem Reading

  • Benjamin Ivry, "How the Golem Got Hist Groove Back," Forward, Mach 5, 2015.
  • Elizabeth R. Baer, The Golem Redux, Detroit, 2012.
  • Cathy S. Gelbin, The Golem Returns, Ann Arbor, 2014
  • Gershom Scholem, "The Idea of the Golem" in  On The Kabbalah and Its Symbolism," New York 1965.
  • S.Y.Agnon, To This Day, Transl. Hillel Halkin, New Milford CT, 2009. (Original publication in Hebrew, 1952)