A Guide to the Paul Erdős-Carl Pomerance Correspondence Collection, 1974-1995
Paul Erdős (1913-1996) was a Hungarian mathematician, known for his work in number theory, combinatorics and graph theory (including the genesis of the probabilistic method), probability theory, set theory, mathematical analysis; for his prolific collaboration with other mathematicians; and for his peripatetic life.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Erdős showed himself to be a mathematics prodigy early when, at the age of three, he discovered negative numbers by himself. As a young boy, he made up and solved mathematical problems, a practice he continued throughout his life. Early in his education, his parents, both mathematics teachers and protective of their only son after his two sisters died days before he was born, removed him from public school and taught him at home.
In 1934, he received his PhD from Eötvös Loránd University (formerly Pázmány Péter University) under Leopold Fejér. That same year, to escape growing anti-semitism in Hungary, Erdős moved to Manchester, England, to do his post-doctorate work. In 1938, he travelled to the United States to accept a fellowship from Princeton University. When Princeton did not renew the fellowship after the first six months, Stanislaw Ulam brought Erdős to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he remained until 1943. That year Erdős accepted a part-time appointment at Purdue University.
He returned to Hungary in 1948 to visit his mother and the members of his family who had survived the War. Erdős traveled between Hungary and England until 1952, when he accepted an appointment at the University of Notre Dame. The appointment allowed Erdős to do research on his own schedule; when the University offered him a permanent position, which would have been more restrictive, he did not accept it.
In 1954, as he was returning to the United States from a conference in Amsterdam, Erdős came under suspicion by the American government, which was closely watching citizens and visitors for signs of Communist sympathies. When he gave unsatisfactory answers to questions Immigration posed as he entered the US, he was not allowed to re-enter. In 1963, after numerous requests, the US granted Erdős a visa to return. During the years of his exile from the US, he traveled from university to university. Once he was allowed back in, he continued this practice, never establishing a home or taking a permanent job. Rather, he moved from place to place, guest lecturing and collaborating with over 450 mathematicians with whom he wrote more than 1,500 articles.
Erdős received the American Mathematical Society Cole Prize in 1951, and the Wolf Prize in 1983 (with S. S. Chern).
Erdős died in Warsaw, Poland, in 1996, while attending a conference.
Carl Pomerance (1944-) is an American mathematician, born in Joplin, Missouri. Known as a number theorist, he specializes in analytic, combinatorial, and computational number theory.
Pomerance received his bachelor’s degree in 1966 from Brown University, and his master’s degree (1970) and PhD (1972) from Harvard University. He taught at the University of Georgia from 1972 to 1999, when he received emeritus status. Pomerance was a member of the Bell Labs-Lucent Technologies technical staff from 1999 to 2003 and, in 2003, accepted an appointment at Dartmouth College, where he is currently the John G. Kemeny Professor of Mathematics. Since 1979 he has held visiting positions at several institutions, including the University of Illinois and the U.E.R des Sciences de Limoges. He has also been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley.
Among his awards are the MAA Chauvenet Prize (1985); the MAA Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics (1997); and the American Mathematical Society Levi L. Conant Prize (2001). Pomerance is also an AAAS Fellow (2004) and an AMS Fellow (2012).
Pomerance and Erdős collaborated on 23 papers.
Pomerance donated his collection of correspondence with Paul Erdős to the Archives of American Mathematics in 2012 and 2013.
The Paul Erdős-Carl Pomerance Correspondence Collection consists of the approximately 435 letters between the two mathematicians written over the course of 20 years. Many of the letters include greetings or more substantive text from other mathematicians whom Erdős was visiting.
This collection is open for research.
Paul Erdős-Carl Pomerance Correspondence Collection, 1974-1995, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Carol Mead, July 2013.
Detailed Description of the Papers