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 Ashkenazi Jewish parents Anna Deutsch and Jakab Pólya who subsequently converted to Roman Catholicism in 1886. Although his parents were religious, George Pólya grew up to be 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. He remained Stanford Professor Emeritus for the rest of his life and career. He worked on a range of mathematical topics, including series, number theory, mathematical analysis, geometry, algebra, combinatorics, and probability.
Early in his career, Pólya wrote with Gábor Szegő two influential problem books Problems and Theorems in Analysis (I: Series, Integral Calculus, Theory of Functions and II: Theory of Functions. Zeros. Polynomials. Determinants. Number Theory. Geometry). Later in his career, he spent considerable effort to identify systematic methods of problem-solving to further discovery and invention in mathematics for students, teachers, and researchers. He wrote five books on the subject: How to Solve It, Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning (Volume I: Induction and Analogy in Mathematics, and Volume II: Patterns of Plausible Inference), and Mathematical Discovery: On Understanding, Learning, and Teaching Problem Solving (volumes 1 and 2).
In How to Solve It, Pólya provides general heuristics for solving a gamut of problems, including both mathematical and non-mathematical problems. 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, noting that he was a fan. The book is still used 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 put the 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 Pólya's honor at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. The mathematics center focuses mainly on tutoring students in the subjects of algebra and calculus.
- 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.
- Harold D. Taylor, Loretta Taylor (1993). George Pólya: master of discovery 1887-1985. Dale Seymour Publications. p. 50. ISBN 9780866516112. "Plancherel was a military man, a colonel in the Swiss army, and a devout Catholic; Pólya 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.
- Schoenfeld, Alan H. (December 1987). "Pólya, Problem Solving, and Education". Mathematics Magazine (Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 60, No. 5) 60 (5): 283–291. doi:10.2307/2690409. JSTOR 2690409.
- 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