George Polya

Biografie şi Bibliografie

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George Pólya (Hungarian: Pólya György; December 13, 1888 – September 7, 1985) was a Hungarian Jewish mathematician. He was a professor of mathematics from 1914 to 1940 at ETH Zürich and from 1940 to 1953 at Stanford University. He made fundamental contributions to combinatorics, number theory, numerical analysis and probability theory. He is also noted for his work in heuristics and mathematics education.

Life and works

He was born as Pólya György in Budapest, Austria-Hungary to originally Ashkenazi Jewish parents Anna Deutsch and Jakab Pólya who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1886. He was a professor of mathematics from 1914 to 1940 at ETH Zürich in Switzerland and from 1940 to 1953 at Stanford University carrying on as Stanford Professor Emeritus the rest of his life and career. He worked on a great variety of mathematical topics, including series, number theory, mathematical analysis, geometry, algebra, combinatorics, and probability.

Heuristics

In his later days, he spent considerable effort on trying to characterize the methods that people use to solve problems, and to describe how problem-solving should be taught and learned. He wrote four books on the subject: How to Solve It, Mathematical Discovery: On Understanding, Learning, and Teaching Problem Solving; Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning Volume I: Induction and Analogy in Mathematics, and Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning Volume II: Patterns of Plausible Reasoning.

In How to Solve It, Pólya provides general heuristics for solving problems of all kinds, not only mathematical ones. The book includes advice for teaching students of mathematics and a mini-encyclopedia of heuristic terms. It was translated into several languages and has sold over a million copies. Russian physicist Zhores I. Alfyorov, (Nobel laureate in 2000) praised it, saying he was very pleased with Pólya's famous book. The book is still referred to in mathematical education. Douglas Lenat's Automated Mathematician and Eurisko artificial intelligence programs were inspired by Pólya's work.

In addition to his works directly addressing problem solving, Pólya wrote another short book called Mathematical Methods in Science, based on a 1963 work supported by the National Science Foundation, edited by Leon Bowden, and published by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) in 1977. As Pólya notes in the preface, Professor Bowden carefully followed a tape recording of a course Pólya gave several times at Stanford in order to pull a book together. Pólya notes in the preface "that the following pages will be useful, yet they should not be regarded as a finished expression."

He died in Palo Alto, California, USA.

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