Aitken, Professor Alexander - Theories writing themselves
Type of Spiritual Experience
Aitken's mathematical work was in statistics, numerical analysis, and algebra. He wrote several books, one of the most famous being The theory of canonical matrices (1932) which was written jointly with Turnbull. With Rutherford he was editor of a series of the University Mathematical Texts and he himself wrote for the series Determinants and matrices (1939) and Statistical Mathematics (1939).
Familiarity with numbers acquired by innate faculty sharpened by assiduous practice does give insight into the profounder theorems of algebra and analysis.
A description of the experience
from the University of St Andrews biography of Aitken
In describing his period of recovery from a small operation in 1934 Aitken writes:-
The nights were bad, in the daytime colleagues and other friends visited me, and I tried to think about abstract things, such as the theory of probability and the theory of groups - and I did begin to see more deeply into these rather abstruse disciplines. Indeed I date a change in my interests and an increase in competence, from these weeks of enforced physical inactivity.
... the papers on numerical analysis, statistical mathematics and the theory of the symmetric group continued to write themselves in steady succession, with other small notes on odds and ends. Those that I valued most, the algebraic ones, seemed to attract hardly any notice, others, which I regarded as mere application of the highly compressed and powerful notation and algebra of matrices to standard problems in statistics or computation found great publicity in America...
The source of the experienceAitken, Professor Alexander
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBeing left handed