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Pure mathematics is the study of mathematical concepts independently of any application outside
mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and their changes (cal ...
. These concepts may originate in real-world concerns, and the results obtained may later turn out to be useful for practical applications, but pure mathematicians are not primarily motivated by such applications. Instead, the appeal is attributed to the intellectual challenge and aesthetic beauty of working out the logical consequences of basic principles. While pure mathematics has existed as an activity since at least
Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
, the concept was elaborated upon around the year 1900, after the introduction of theories with counter-intuitive properties (such as
non-Euclidean geometries In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). I ...
and Cantor's theory of infinite sets), and the discovery of apparent paradoxes (such as
continuous function In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no gen ...
s that are nowhere
differentiable In calculus (a branch of mathematics), a differentiable function of one Real number, real variable is a function whose derivative exists at each point in its Domain of a function, domain. In other words, the Graph of a function, graph of a differen ...

differentiable
, and
Russell's paradox In the foundations of mathematics Foundations of mathematics is the study of the philosophical and logical and/or algorithmic basis of mathematics, or, in a broader sense, the mathematical investigation of what underlies the philosophical theori ...

Russell's paradox
). This introduced the need to renew the concept of
mathematical rigor Rigour (British English) or rigor (American English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) describes a condition of stiffness or strictness. Rigour frequently refers to a process of adhering abso ...
and rewrite all mathematics accordingly, with a systematic use of
axiomatic method In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...
s. This led many mathematicians to focus on mathematics for its own sake, that is, pure mathematics. Nevertheless, almost all mathematical theories remained motivated by problems coming from the real world or from less abstract mathematical theories. Also, many mathematical theories, which had seemed to be totally pure mathematics, were eventually used in applied areas, mainly
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scie ...

physics
and
computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their application. Computer science is the study of computation, automation, a ...
. A famous early example is
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics a ...

Isaac Newton
's demonstration that his
law of universal gravitation Newton's law of universal gravitation is usually stated as that every particle In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to which can ...
implied that
planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydrostatic equilibrium, rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and ...

planet
s move in orbits that are
conic section In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...
s, geometrical curves that had been studied in antiquity by Apollonius. Another example is the problem of
factoring
factoring
large
integer An integer (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to ...
s, which is the basis of the
RSA cryptosystem RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman) is a public-key cryptosystem that is widely used for secure data transmission. It is also one of the oldest. The acronym An acronym is a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or p ...
, widely used to secure
internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''internetworking, network of networks'' that consist ...

internet
communications. It follows that, presently, the distinction between pure and
applied mathematics Applied mathematics is the application of mathematical methods by different fields such as physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and be ...
is more a philosophical point of view or a mathematician's preference than a rigid subdivision of mathematics. In particular, it is not uncommon that some members of a department of applied mathematics describe themselves as pure mathematicians.


History


Ancient Greece

Ancient Greek mathematicians were among the earliest to make a distinction between pure and applied mathematics.
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
helped to create the gap between "arithmetic", now called
number theory Number theory (or arithmetic or higher arithmetic in older usage) is a branch of devoted primarily to the study of the s and . German mathematician (1777–1855) said, "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences—and number theory is the queen ...

number theory
, and "logistic", now called
arithmetic Arithmetic (from the Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:en:ἀριθμός#Ancient Greek, ἀριθμός ''arithmos'', 'number' and wikt:en:τική#Ancient Greek, τική wikt:en:τέχνη#Ancient Greek, έχνη ''tiké échne', 'art' or 'cr ...
. Plato regarded logistic (arithmetic) as appropriate for businessmen and men of war who "must learn the art of numbers or
hey Hey or Hey! may refer to: Music * Hey (band), a Polish rock band Albums * Hey (Andreas Bourani album), ''Hey'' (Andreas Bourani album) or the title song (see below), 2014 * Hey! (Julio Iglesias album), ''Hey!'' (Julio Iglesias album) or the ti ...

hey
will not know how to array
heir Inheritance is the practice of passing on private property Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities. Private property is distinguishable from public property Public property i ...
troops" and arithmetic (number theory) as appropriate for philosophers "because hey haveto arise out of the sea of change and lay hold of true being."
Euclid of Alexandria Euclid (; grc, Wikt:Εὐκλείδης, Εὐκλείδης – ''Eukleídēs'', ; floruit, fl. 300 BC), sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara, was a Greek mathematics, Greek mathematician, often refe ...
, when asked by one of his students of what use was the study of geometry, asked his slave to give the student threepence, "since he must make gain of what he learns." The Greek mathematician
Apollonius of Perga Apollonius of Perga ( grc-gre, Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Περγαῖος ''Apollonios o Pergeos''; la, Apollonius Pergaeus; ) was an Ancient Greece, Ancient Greek geometer and astronomer known for his work on conic sections. Beginning from the ...
was asked about the usefulness of some of his theorems in Book IV of ''Conics'' to which he proudly asserted,
They are worthy of acceptance for the sake of the demonstrations themselves, in the same way as we accept many other things in mathematics for this and for no other reason.
And since many of his results were not applicable to the science or engineering of his day, Apollonius further argued in the preface of the fifth book of ''Conics'' that the subject is one of those that "...seem worthy of study for their own sake."


19th century

The term itself is enshrined in the full title of the Sadleirian Chair, Sadleirian Professor of Pure Mathematics, founded (as a professorship) in the mid-nineteenth century. The idea of a separate discipline of ''pure'' mathematics may have emerged at that time. The generation of
Gauss Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (; german: Gauß ; la, Carolus Fridericus Gauss; 30 April 177723 February 1855) was a German mathematician This is a List of German mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of m ...

Gauss
made no sweeping distinction of the kind, between ''pure'' and ''applied''. In the following years, specialisation and professionalisation (particularly in the
Weierstrass Karl Theodor Wilhelm Weierstrass (german: link=no, Weierstraß ; 31 October 1815 – 19 February 1897) was a German mathematics, mathematician often cited as the "father of modern mathematical analysis, analysis". Despite leaving university withou ...

Weierstrass
approach to
mathematical analysis Analysis is the branch of mathematics dealing with Limit (mathematics), limits and related theories, such as Derivative, differentiation, Integral, integration, Measure (mathematics), measure, sequences, Series (mathematics), series, and analytic ...
) started to make a rift more apparent.


20th century

At the start of the twentieth century mathematicians took up the
axiomatic method In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...
, strongly influenced by
David Hilbert David Hilbert (; ; 23 January 1862 – 14 February 1943) was a German mathematician This is a List of German mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, G ...
's example. The logical formulation of pure mathematics suggested by
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose know ...
in terms of a quantifier structure of
proposition In logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, lab ...
s seemed more and more plausible, as large parts of mathematics became axiomatised and thus subject to the simple criteria of '' rigorous proof''. Pure mathematics, according to a view that can be ascribed to the Bourbaki group, is what is proved. Pure mathematician became a recognized vocation, achievable through training. The case was made that pure mathematics is useful in
engineering education Engineering education is the activity of teaching Education is the process of facilitating learning Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, value (personal and cultural), values, attitu ...
: A. S. Hathaway (1901
"Pure mathematics for engineering students"
Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society Bulletin or The Bulletin may refer to: Periodicals (newspapers, magazines, journals) * The Bulletin (Australian periodical), ''The Bulletin'' (Australian periodical), an Australian magazine (1880–2008) ** Bulletin Debate, a famous dispute from ...
7(6):266–71.
:There is a training in habits of thought, points of view, and intellectual comprehension of ordinary engineering problems, which only the study of higher mathematics can give.


Generality and abstraction

One central concept in pure mathematics is the idea of generality; pure mathematics often exhibits a trend towards increased generality. Uses and advantages of generality include the following: * Generalizing theorems or mathematical structures can lead to deeper understanding of the original theorems or structures * Generality can simplify the presentation of material, resulting in shorter proofs or arguments that are easier to follow. * One can use generality to avoid duplication of effort, proving a general result instead of having to prove separate cases independently, or using results from other areas of mathematics. * Generality can facilitate connections between different branches of mathematics.
Category theory Category theory formalizes mathematical structure In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and ...
is one area of mathematics dedicated to exploring this commonality of structure as it plays out in some areas of math. Generality's impact on
intuition Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is ...
is both dependent on the subject and a matter of personal preference or learning style. Often generality is seen as a hindrance to intuition, although it can certainly function as an aid to it, especially when it provides analogies to material for which one already has good intuition. As a prime example of generality, the
Erlangen program In mathematics, the Erlangen program is a method of characterizing geometries based on group theory The popular puzzle Rubik's cube invented in 1974 by Ernő Rubik has been used as an illustration of permutation group">Ernő_Rubik.html" ;"titl ...
involved an expansion of
geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relative position of figures. A mat ...

geometry
to accommodate
non-Euclidean geometries In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). I ...
as well as the field of
topology In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities ...

topology
, and other forms of geometry, by viewing geometry as the study of a space together with a
group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with ...
of transformations. The study of
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...

number
s, called
algebra Algebra (from ar, الجبر, lit=reunion of broken parts, bonesetting, translit=al-jabr) is one of the areas of mathematics, broad areas of mathematics, together with number theory, geometry and mathematical analysis, analysis. In its most ge ...

algebra
at the beginning undergraduate level, extends to
abstract algebra In algebra, which is a broad division of mathematics, abstract algebra (occasionally called modern algebra) is the study of algebraic structures. Algebraic structures include group (mathematics), groups, ring (mathematics), rings, field (mathema ...
at a more advanced level; and the study of
function Function or functionality may refer to: Computing * Function key A function key is a key on a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern comp ...
s, called
calculus Calculus, originally called infinitesimal calculus or "the calculus of infinitesimals", is the mathematics, mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape and algebra is the study of generalizations ...

calculus
at the college freshman level becomes
mathematical analysis Analysis is the branch of mathematics dealing with Limit (mathematics), limits and related theories, such as Derivative, differentiation, Integral, integration, Measure (mathematics), measure, sequences, Series (mathematics), series, and analytic ...
and
functional analysis 200px, One of the possible modes of vibration of an idealized circular drum head. These modes are eigenfunctions of a linear operator on a function space, a common construction in functional analysis. Functional analysis is a branch of mathemat ...
at a more advanced level. Each of these branches of more ''abstract'' mathematics have many sub-specialties, and there are in fact many connections between pure mathematics and applied mathematics disciplines. A steep rise in
abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, mak ...

abstraction
was seen mid 20th century. In practice, however, these developments led to a sharp divergence from
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scie ...

physics
, particularly from 1950 to 1983. Later this was criticised, for example by
Vladimir Arnold Vladimir Igorevich Arnold (alternative spelling Arnol'd, russian: link=no, Влади́мир И́горевич Арно́льд, 12 June 1937 – 3 June 2010) was a Soviet and Russian mathematician. While he is best known for the Kolmogorov–A ...

Vladimir Arnold
, as too much
Hilbert David Hilbert (; ; 23 January 1862 – 14 February 1943) was a German mathematician and one of the most influential mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in man ...
, not enough Poincaré. The point does not yet seem to be settled, in that
string theory In physics, string theory is a Mathematical theory, theoretical framework in which the Point particle, point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by Dimension (mathematics and physics), one-dimensional objects called String (physic ...

string theory
pulls one way, while
discrete mathematics Discrete mathematics is the study of mathematical structures In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geom ...
pulls back towards proof as central.


Pure vs. applied mathematics

Mathematicians have always had differing opinions regarding the distinction between pure and applied mathematics. One of the most famous (but perhaps misunderstood) modern examples of this debate can be found in G.H. Hardy's ''
A Mathematician's Apology ''A Mathematician's Apology'' is a 1940 essay by British mathematician G. H. Hardy, which offers a defence of the pursuit of mathematics. Central to Hardy's " apology" — in the sense of a formal justification or defence (as in Plato ...
''. It is widely believed that Hardy considered applied mathematics to be ugly and dull. Although it is true that Hardy preferred pure mathematics, which he often compared to
painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid A liquid is a nearly incompressible In fluid mechanics Fluid mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the mechanics Mechanics (Ancient ...

painting
and
poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popula ...

poetry
, Hardy saw the distinction between pure and applied mathematics to be simply that applied mathematics sought to express ''physical'' truth in a mathematical framework, whereas pure mathematics expressed truths that were independent of the physical world. Hardy made a separate distinction in mathematics between what he called "real" mathematics, "which has permanent aesthetic value", and "the dull and elementary parts of mathematics" that have practical use. Hardy considered some physicists, such as
Einstein Albert Einstein ( ; ; 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is known for developing the theory of relativity The theory ...

Einstein
and , to be among the "real" mathematicians, but at the time that he was writing the ''Apology'' he considered
general relativity General relativity, also known as the general theory of relativity, is the geometric Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; '' geo-'' "earth", '' -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathema ...
and
quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with ...
to be "useless", which allowed him to hold the opinion that only "dull" mathematics was useful. Moreover, Hardy briefly admitted that—just as the application of
matrix theory In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...
and
group theory In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no ...
to physics had come unexpectedly—the time may come where some kinds of beautiful, "real" mathematics may be useful as well. Another insightful view is offered by Magid:
Friedrich Engels Friedrich Engels ( ,"Engels"
''
argued in ''
Anti-Dühring ''Anti-Dühring'' (german: Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, "Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science") is a book by Friedrich Engels Friedrich Engels ( ,
'' that "it is not at all true that in pure mathematics the mind deals only with its own creations and imaginations. The concepts of number and figure have not been invented from any source other than the world of reality". He further argued that "Before one came upon the idea of deducing the form of a cylinder from the rotation of a rectangle about one of its sides, a number of real rectangles and cylinders, however imperfect in form, must have been examined. Like all other sciences, mathematics arose out of the needs of men...But, as in every department of thought, at a certain stage of development the laws, which were abstracted from the real world, become divorced from the real world, and are set up against it as something independent, as laws coming from outside, to which the world has to conform."


See also

*
Applied mathematics Applied mathematics is the application of mathematical methods by different fields such as physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and be ...
*
Logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning. Informal logic seeks to characterize Validity (logic), valid arguments informally, for instance by listing varieties of fallacies. Formal logic represents statements and ar ...

Logic
*
Metalogic Metalogic is the study of the metatheory of logic. Whereas ''logic'' studies how formal system, logical systems can be used to construct Validity (logic), valid and soundness, sound arguments, metalogic studies the properties of logical systems.Har ...
*
Metamathematics Metamathematics is the study of mathematics itself using mathematical methods. This study produces metatheories, which are mathematical theories about other mathematical theories. Emphasis on metamathematics (and perhaps the creation of the term it ...


References


External links


''What is Pure Mathematics?''
– Department of Pure Mathematics, University of Waterloo

by Professor P. J. Giblin The University of Liverpool
''The Principles of Mathematics''
by
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose know ...

How to Become a Pure Mathematician (or Statistician)
a list of undergraduate and basic graduate textbooks and lecture notes, with several comments and links to solutions, companion sites, data sets, errata pages, etc. {{DEFAULTSORT:Pure Mathematics Fields of mathematics Abstraction