Person: Rényi, Alfréd
Alfréd Rényi was a Hungarian mathematician who worked in probability theory, combinatorics, graph theory and number theory.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Both of Alfréd's parents were Jewish, a fact which, sadly, was highly significant for those living in Hungary through this period of anti-Semitic fervour.
- He changed his name from Rosenthal to Rényi and made his fortune from a walking stick factory which he founded.
- At this stage Rényi began work at the Ganz Shipyard and Crane Factory.
- When the order to evacuate to the West did come, Rényi escaped, and lived in Budapest using false documents.
- The János Bolyai Mathematical Society awards the Kató Rényi Memorial Prize in her honour.
- The results Rényi obtained in Russia were announced in the paper On the representation of an even number as the sum of a single prime and a single almost-prime number (Russian) (1947).
- In the following year Rényi published full proofs of these results and, in addition, noted that his techniques also show that every odd number is the sum of a prime and twice an almost-prime and that for each fixed integer m (positive or negative) there exists an infinity of primes ppp such that p+mp + mp+m is almost prime.
- Rényi worked on probability theory which was to be his main research topic throughout his life, but his interests were broad and also covered statistics, information theory, combinatorics, graph theory, number theory and analysis.
- Thus, when Rényi is referred to as a great applied probabilist, this is partly because of his interests in probability applied to other parts of mathematics.
- This approach was based on a new system of axioms which Rényi had invented and presented in a lecture to the International Congress of Mathematicians held in Amsterdam from 2 September to 9 September 1954.
- Rényi adopts the style of presentation as a collection of (fictitious) letters from Pascal to Fermat.
- Rényi received many honours for his achievements and, had he not died at the tragically young age of 48, he would have undoubtedly have received many more.
- Gyula Katona, using Rényi's notes for the rest of the book, completed it and it was published first in Hungarian, then in German in 1982, and in English in 1984, fourteen years after Rényi's death.
- Rényi possessed also an inquisitive and dogged interest in all the phenomena of the world about him, and in all the scholarly activities of his colleagues, whether scientific or humane, and this unique combination of powers and interests enabled him to build up a research institute in which the criterion for acceptability of a subject for investigation was 'does there exits at least one mathematician with a genuine interest in this topic'?
- The books, manuscripts and notes scattered on his desk made the visitor feel that he had entered the scene of creative, productive activity, an activity that Alfréd Rényi carried on unabated to the last day of his life.
Born 30 March 1921, Budapest, Hungary. Died 1 February 1970, Budapest, Hungary.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive