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"If only I had the theorems! Then I should find the proofs easily enough."

This quote is generally attributed to Bernhard Riemann. In particular, on page 9 in Proofs and refutations by Imre Lakatos, where it is referred to page 487 in Die mathematische Methode. Logisch erkenntnistheoretische Untersuchungen im Gebiete der Mathematik, Mechanik und Physik. Berlin: Springer, 1924, by Otto H\"older.

I read German but I do not have access to the book by H\"older. Does anyone know the original quote in German? The context? Where does it come from? What is in the book by H\"older?

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"Wenn ich nur erst die Sätze habe! Die Beweise werde ich schon finden." is given in didamath.com/docs/didaktikwzbw.pdf (It seems this is taken from the German translation of Lakatos's book. It matches the part of the quote that I can see on Google books of Hölder's book you mention.) To me this sounds a lot less confident than the English translation; and general quite a bit different. My rough translation would rather be: "Once/when I will have the theorems! The proofs I will manage to find somehow." Or put differently, the 'easy enough' is not there IMO. –  quid Feb 11 at 15:53
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Dear quid, my German is rusty, but I don't see where the "somehow" in your translation comes from. "Soon" is a good translation for "schon" IMO. And "easily enough" is close in meaning, in this particular context. –  Joël Feb 11 at 16:08
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Thanks to quid for his effort. I did not find it in Google books. Miguel has the book and wrote to me with the answer. This is the chapter entitled 'The art of research', section 'Suppositions, conjectures, induction and analogy', where Holder discusses the advantage of making educated guesses before writing proofs, very similar to what is in Lakatos' book. The German original of the quote is exactly as in the comment by quid. The new information is a footnote, where Holder credits this to a private communication from H. A. Schwarz (1843-1921, of complex analysis fame). –  Claudio Gorodski Feb 11 at 16:26
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Thanks Claudio. And Holder doesn't say anything about the context, I suppose? Interesting question, by the way... And it is is quite ironical that Riemann said so: after all, he had the statement of the Riemann hypothesis, and the proof didn't came "soon". –  Joël Feb 12 at 0:29
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Native German speaker here. "Schon" doesn't translate as "soon"; I agree with quid on "somehow" in that case. –  Achim Krause Jun 3 at 3:11

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Wenn ich nur erst die Sätze habe! Die Beweise werde ich schon finden.

as quid said. .

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Thanks Ben. This is exactly what Miguel had sent to me, as mentioned in the comments above. –  Claudio Gorodski Jun 3 at 16:47

I found the following quotation, which seems more like what it might have been in German, though unfortunately that website does not cite a source from which it got the quotation.

Wenn ich doch nur die Theoreme hätte! Die Beweise würde ich dann schon finden...
Bernhard Riemann - 1826-1866

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