Some personal letters

Over the years, I’ve received a number of general inquiries from students about the life of a mathematician. Obviously, just from sitting in lectures and so forth, it is rather hard to get a real sense of what daily life might be like engaged most of the time in intellectual inquiry. Most importantly, in these diverting times, it’s impossible to entirely avoid the question of why?

During one of the last tutorials of the previous term, Jamal Muse asked me if I enjoyed doing mathematics, and even for this it wasn’t possible to come up with an entirely straightforward answer. Recursively, even the question of why the answer can’t be straightforward, I feel rather uncertain about. Meanwhile, I do take seriously a certain obligation on my part to give an honest answer to such questions,  since they relate to fairly serious decisions that can really affect the rest of a student’s life.

So I’ve finally decided to present an indirect reply. It is rather long, consisting of a series of twenty letters I wrote to my son a few years ago while traveling over the summer on research visits. Much of it is personal, and quite likely boring. I would myself normally frown upon such public exhibition of private letters. However, since I did at the time think exactly about the issue of conveying to my children some feeling for the time I spent away from them, it occurred to me that the letters may serve this other purpose as well.

To impart the semblance of an informal book, I’ve put in a title page and created separate links for the letters according to the dates. If you do end up browsing here and there, try to gloss over the very emotional passages. I’ve left them in to avoid the effort of editing. In any case, let me know if the letters are at all useful to you. Indeed, if they end up of any more than passing interest I may put in a more serious effort at some point to continue the story with a broader readership explicitly in mind.


title page
15 May, 2005
16 May, 2005
17 May, 2005
18 May, 2005
19 May, 2005
20 May, 2005
22 May, 2005
23 May, 2005
25 May, 2005
26 May, 2005
29 May, 2005
31 May, 2005
6 June, 2005
12 June, 2005
15 June, 2005
18 June, 2005
19 June, 2005
21 June, 2005
25 June, 2005
29 June, 2005

One Comment

  1. A. Locatelli
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 8:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hey Prof. Kim
    How are you?
    These are really interesting. I actually was thinking over this holiday what constitutes the daily life of a mathematician.Oh, and thanks for always answering our non-pure-maths related question
    Well, Hope you had a good holiday.
    See you on Monday tutorial.

    A. Locatelli

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: