Mathematics, a young man’s game

Ulrich Zwingli, On the Upbringing and Education of Youth in Good Manners and Christian Discipline, Part II:

I advise the young man not to despise mathematics (with which we may also reckon music), but he ought not to devote too much time to this subject. It is useful to those who know it and an obstacle to those who do not. But it does not yield any great profit to those who grow old in its service, and they are reduced to wandering from place to place in order not to perish from lack of activity.

This for Uncle Chuck, who has certainly grown old in the service of Mathematics, and has not too recently wandered from OH to MI. Have you had any kind of retirement bash yet? Barb, you should save this quote for such an occasion! (Or maybe embroider it for him…)

4 Responses

  1. I’m amused by the “with which we may also reckon music” in there. After getting an education in music, I certainly found it to require too much “wandering” (i.e. performing hither and thither) to sustain a full-time career. I’m glad I had another path available, but I’ll never regret studying composition… which is indeed “useful to those who know it.”

    • I suppose it depends on what useful means!

      I made my switch, earlier than you, away from music as a major or even minor, when I realized that I hate to practice, and I love to eat!

      • I consider the ability to exhort and uplift the body of Christ through worship to have a great deal of utility!

        Anyway, part of what amused me, of course, is that I began my post-secondary education with the goal of obtaining degrees in *both* music and mathematics. Zwingli would not have approved.

  2. I certainly didn’t do much wandering, spending 36 years in one (very suitable) place. There was a retirement party two years ago but not
    this year for my second.

    Math is “a young man’s game” as most really great new math is done by young mathematicians (now including women in much larger numbers).
    There have been some famous exceptions. (Gauss and Euler come to mind.) Even in my own case I have published more and presented more in the past decade than in all of the previous four, certainly none fitting into the category of either new or great math.

    Music is also a significant pat of my life, although I left it as a possible career when it became clear that a life of teaching junior high kids to play the trumpet was not my cup of tea.

    Uncle Chuck

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