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I wanted to properly cite the following awesome quote:

Every mathematician has a secret weapon. Mine is Morse theory. - Raoul Bott

Now this has been attributed to Bott in precisely two places that I can find: the older of the two is Bestvina's work on PL Morse theory here and the more recent occurrence is in the 14th slide of Kahle's talk available as a rather large pdf file here.


What is the original reference for this quote?

I've combed through the likely suspect, Morse theory indomitable available here but the quote does not appear to be in that paper

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Why don't you ask Mladen? – Lee Mosher Jun 22 '12 at 13:37
Good idea, I've just sent him an email. I will post an answer here if and when he responds. – Vidit Nanda Jun 22 '12 at 14:31
The quote does sound like Bott, though it's not likely to be found in his formal writings; maybe from a lecture. Beyond asking Mladen, you might get help from Bob MacPherson (IAS), who was a student of Bott's and edited his multi-volume collected papers (Birkhauser, 1994-1995). In any case, it is honorable of you to check the folklore, which most of us are happy to pass along whether authentic or not. – Jim Humphreys Jun 22 '12 at 15:20
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Here is Mladen's response to my email asking this question:

I heard him say it in a colloquium talk in 2001 (I think).

Case closed, unless Bob MacPherson has a different answer.

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