George Pólya, circa 1973
December 13, 1887|
|Died||September 7, 1985
Palo Alto, California
American (1947–his death)
|Alma mater||Eötvös Loránd University|
|Doctoral advisor||Lipót Fejér|
|Doctoral students||Albert Edrei
James J. Stoker
|Known for||How to solve it
Multivariate Pólya distribution
Pólya enumeration theorem
George Pólya (Hungarian: Pólya György; December 13, 1887 – 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. While his parents were religious, George was an agnostic. 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.
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 Inference.
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."
There are three prizes, of which names are confusing with one another, named after Pólya. In 1969 the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) established the George Pólya Prize, given alternately in two categories for "a notable application of combinatorial theory" and for "a notable contribution in another area of interest to George Pólya." In 1976 the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) established the George Pólya Award "for articles of expository excellence" published in the College Mathematics Journal. In 1987 the London Mathematical Society (LMS) established the Pólya Prize for "outstanding creativity in, imaginative exposition of, or distinguished contribution to, mathematics within the United Kingdom."
A mathematics center has been named in his honor at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. The mathematics center focuses mainly on tutoring students in the subjects of algebra and calculus.
Notable Students 
See also 
- Landau–Kolmogorov inequality
- Multivariate Pólya distribution
- Pólya conjecture
- Polya distribution
- Pólya enumeration theorem
- Pólya–Vinogradov inequality
- Pólya inequality
- Polya urn model
- Pólya's proof that there is no "horse of a different color"
- George Polya in the Swiss historic lexicon.
- George Pólya: master of discovery 1887-1985. Dale Seymour Publications. 1993. p. 50. ISBN 9780866516112. "Plancherel was a military man, a colonel in the Swiss army, and a devout Catholic; Polya did not like military ceremonies or activities, and he was an agnostic who objected to hierarchical religions."
- Roberts, A. Wayne (1995). Faces of Mathematics, Third Edition. New York, NY USA: HaperCollins College Publishers. p. 479. ISBN 0-06-501069-8.
- Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics George Pólya Prize
- Mathematical Association of America George Pólya Award
- London Mathematical Society Polya Prize
- University of Idaho Polya Center
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: George Pólya|
- The George Pólya Award
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "George Pólya", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
- George Pólya at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- George Pólya, Gábor Szegö, Problems and theorems in analysis (1998)
- PolyaPower -- an introduction to Polya's Heuristics
- George Pólya on UIUC's WikEd
- Memorial Resolution
- George Pólya — Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences