# mathematical lifespan

"The mathematical life of a mathematician is short. Work rarely
improves after the age of twenty-five or thirty. If little has been accomplished
by then, little will ever be accomplished." Thus wrote Alfred Adler in an
article "Mathematics and Creativity" in *The New Yorker Magazine* (1972) echoing a common belief that mathematicians tend to do their best
work before the age of 30, physicists before the age of 40, and biologists
before the age of 50 (though there are exceptions!). The mathematical physicist
Freeman Dyson put it more succinctly: "Young
men should prove theorems, old men should write books." On the other hand,
there are compensations for early burn-out, as G. H. Hardy pointed out (in *A Mathematician's Apology*): "Archimedes will be
remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical
ideas do not. 'Immortality' may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician
has the best chance of whatever it may mean."