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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.

Question:

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
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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
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1 Answer 1

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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