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George Plya

Born

Budapest, Austria-Hungary

Died

Palo Alto, California

Nationality

Hungarian (1918)

Swiss (19181947)

American (1947his death)[1]

Fields

Mathematics

Institutions

ETH Zrich

Stanford University

Alma mater

Doctoral advisor

Lipt Fejr

Albert Edrei

Hans Einstein

Fritz Gassmann

Doctoral students

Albert Pfluger

Walter Saxer

James J. Stoker

Known for

How to solve it

Multivariate Plya distribution

Plya conjecture

Plya enumeration theorem

LandauKolmogorov inequality

PlyaVinogradov inequality

Plya inequality

PlyaAeppli distribution

Plya urn model

George Plya (Hungarian: Plya Gyrgy, pronounced [poj r]; December 13, 1887

September 7, 1985) was a Hungarian mathematician. He was a professor of mathematics from

1914 to 1940 at ETH Zrich 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.

Contents

Life and works

He was born as Plya Gyrgy in Budapest, Austria-Hungary to Anna Deutsch and Jakab Plya,

Roman Catholics who converted from Judaism in 1886.[2] Although his parents were religious

and he was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, George Plya grew up to be an agnostic.[3]

He was a professor of mathematics from 1914 to 1940 at ETH Zrich 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.[4]

He died in Palo Alto, California, USA.

Heuristics

Early in his career, Plya wrote with Gbor Szeg 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.[5] 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, Plya 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 Plya's work.

In addition to his works directly addressing problem solving, Plya 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 Plya notes in the preface, Professor Bowden carefully followed a

tape recording of a course Plya gave several times at Stanford in order to put the book together.

Plya notes in the preface "that the following pages will be useful, yet they should not be

regarded as a finished expression."

Legacy

There are three prizes (whose names are confused with one another) named after Plya. In 1969

the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) established the George Plya 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 Plya."[6] In 1976 the Mathematical

Association of America (MAA) established the George Plya Award "for articles of expository

excellence" published in the College Mathematics Journal.[7] In 1987 the London Mathematical

Society (LMS) established the Plya Prize for "outstanding creativity in, imaginative exposition

of, or distinguished contribution to, mathematics within the United Kingdom."[8]

A mathematics center has been named in Plya'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.[9]

See also

LandauKolmogorov inequality

Multivariate Plya distribution

Plya conjecture

Polya distribution

Plya enumeration theorem

PlyaVinogradov inequality

Plya inequality

Polya urn model

Plya's proof that there is no "horse of a different color"

References

1. George Polya in the Swiss historic lexicon.

2. http://www.gap-system.org/~history/Biographies/Polya.html

3. Harold D. Taylor, Loretta Taylor (1993). George Plya: 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; Plya did not like military

ceremonies or activities, and he was an agnostic who objected to hierarchical religions.

4. Roberts, A. Wayne (1995). Faces of Mathematics, Third Edition. New York, NY USA:

HaperCollins College Publishers. p. 479. ISBN 0-06-501069-8.

Mathematics Magazine (Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 60, No. 5) 60 (5): 283291.

doi:10.2307/2690409. JSTOR 2690409.

6. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics George Plya Prize

7. Mathematical Association of America George Plya Award

8. London Mathematical Society Polya Prize

9. University of Idaho Polya Center

External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: George Plya

O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "George Plya", MacTutor History of

Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.

George Plya at the Mathematics Genealogy Project

George Plya, Gbor Szeg, Problems and theorems in analysis (1998)

PolyaPoweran introduction to Polya's Heuristics at the Wayback Machine (archived

July 28, 2009)

George Plya on UIUC's WikEd

Memorial Resolution

George Plya Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences

"Polya Guessing" on Vimeo

Categories:

1887 births

1985 deaths

20th-century mathematicians

20th-century Hungarian people

American agnostics

Hungarian Jews

American mathematicians

American people of Hungarian-Jewish descent

American statisticians

Hungarian emigrants to Switzerland

Combinatorialists

ETH Zurich faculty

Hungarian agnostics

Hungarian mathematicians

Hungarian statisticians

Complex analysts

Mathematical analysts

Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences

Swiss emigrants to the United States

Swiss mathematicians

Swiss statisticians

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