Mathematical “urban legends”
posted November 2014
a topic on the math version of stackoverflow, filled with funny stories, anecdotes, urban legends about mathematicians. If you're like me you're gonna love every bit of it.
Although David Hilbert was one of the first to deal seriously with infinite-dimensional complete inner product spaces, the practice of calling them after him was begun by others, supposedly without his knowledge. The story goes that one day a visitor came to Göttingen and gave a seminar about some theorem on "Hilbert spaces". At the end of the lecture, Hilbert raised his hand and asked, "What is a Hilbert space?"
When the logician Carnap was immigrating to the US, he had the usual consular interview, where one of the questions was (and still is, I think): "Would you favor the overthrow of the US government by violence, or force of arms?". He thought for a while, and responded: "I would have to say force of arms..."