# (Preferably rare) Audio/Video recordings of famous mathematicians?

Terence Tao's homepage has a link to a collection of quotes, and one among them was Hilbert's famous "We must know, we will know" quote. This quote also had an audio link to it. Now although I'm not sure if it is really Hilbert's voice in the link, this prompted me to ask if we could have a collection of (rare) audio/video recordings of mathematicians which are freely available on the internet.

Let me add, however, that I am not asking for audio/video recordings of mathematicians which are fairly recent (a typical example of which I am NOT asking for are TED talks or podcasts). Recordings of famous mathematicians of the early twentieth and mid twentieth century will be wonderful. (I've always wanted to find out how Von Neumann's voice sounded like!).

Addendum: Are there any videos or audio excerpts of any talks given by Grothendieck which are available anywhere? I'd be grateful if anyone could post any such links. Thanks in advance.

• While I will probably enjoy the answers... this is surely not math-philosophy! Mar 15, 2011 at 18:01
• Excerpt of the Marston Morse video "Pits, peaks, and passes": vimeo.com/13622524 Mar 15, 2011 at 18:20
• Von Neumann's voice can be heard here youtube.com/watch?v=vLbllFHBQM4 Mar 15, 2011 at 18:39
• @Agol: the video seems to be password protected now.
– j.c.
Mar 15, 2011 at 19:49
• Who would mark a question as favorite without voting up? Jul 17, 2013 at 14:45

The voice of John von Neumann dedicating the NORC computer in 1954 (short excerpt and full speech).

(source: washington.edu)

The wire recording is a bit murky; here is my best-effort transcript of the short excerpt:

"Those of you present who have lived with this field, and who have lived with and suffered with computing machines of various sorts, and know what kind of regime it is to invest in one, I'm sure have appreciated the fact that it appears that this machine has been completely assembled less than two months ago, has been run on problems less than two weeks ago, and yesterday already ran for four hours without making a mistake. Those of you who have not been exposed to computing machines, and who do not have the desolate feeling which goes with living with their mistakes, will appreciate what it means that a computing machine, after about two weeks of breaking in, has really a faultless run of four hours. It is completely fantastic on an object of this size; I doubt it has ever been achieved before, and it is an enormous reassurance regarding the state of the art and regarding the complexities to which one will be able to go in the future, that this has been achieved."

Here is the BibTeX reference to a printed version (which differs slightly from the speech).

@incollection{vonNeumann:54,
Author = {J. von Neumann},
Booktitle = {John von Neumann Collected Works},
Editor = {A. H. Taub},
Publisher = {Pergamon Press},
Title = {The N.O.R.C.~and Problems in High Speed Computing},
Volume = {5},
Year = 1954,
Pages = 238--247}

• I didn't know von Neumann used Windows. Mar 16, 2011 at 0:49
• After hearing this I have to say that Peter Sellers did actually a very good performance in "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb". Mar 16, 2011 at 9:56
• Actually, even more reminiscent of Peter Sellers, is a film of Werner von Braun, circa mid-1950s, discussing orbiting nuclear-armed space stations ... I've watched this film at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, but (sadly) I have no recording of it. Mar 16, 2011 at 22:21
• I recall many years ago a TV program on Von Neumann. (Maybe in the NOVA series?) They said they scoured the world for film and found only one instance showing Von Neumann. When he was on the Atomic Energy Commission. The film showed him with many others at a publicity event in the control room of a nuclear reactor, I think. May 11, 2011 at 15:34
• The link is broken; the recordings can be found at: ftp.arl.mil/mike/comphist/54nord Jan 5, 2015 at 19:39

I just found the follow audio recordings of Grothendieck:

http://cds.cern.ch/record/912518?ln=en

Unfortunately, it does not show Grothendieck "in mathematical action", but quite the contrary: In 1972, he hosted a conference at CERN entitled "Allons nous continuer la recherche scientifique?/Will we continue scientific research?"

The link is to CERN's own audio archives.

• that's amazing! thanks a lot for the link!!! May 28, 2013 at 22:06
• Great find, thank you! I never imagined that Grothendieck spoke French with a German accent! Jul 18, 2013 at 13:08

Jean Dieudonné, Bourbaki secretary and author of the nine-volume "Foundations of Modern Analysis" giving an interview on french television about his book "Pour l'honneur de l'esprit humain : les mathématiques aujourd'hui":

http://www.ina.fr/art-et-culture/litterature/video/CPB87005869/les-livres-du-mois.fr.html

• Also, the coauthor with Grothendieck of the Éléments de géométrie algébrique, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… . Mar 16, 2011 at 15:14
• Nice video! (could be merged with the other videos of French mathematicians). Funny to see how the announcer Bernard Pivot sweats when interviewing Dieudonné... Mar 16, 2011 at 16:09

Addendum: Are there any videos or audio excerpts of any talks given by Grothendieck which are available anywhere? I'd be grateful if anyone could post any such links. Thanks in advance.

Actually, several lecture courses by Grothendieck have been recorded but afaik not available online. Maybe you can make a FOI request if you are really interested---the copyright is by University of Buffalo so hopefully subject to Freedom of Information Act.

1973 Recordings Lecture Courses by Alexandre GROTHENDIECK 3 Lecture Courses on respectively

1. Algebraic Geometry
2. The Theory of Algebraic Groups
3. Topos Theory

( The copyright of all these recordings is that of the Department of Mathematics of SUNY at Buffalo )

Edit

Now you can find the audio in the section 1973 of the webpage Thèmes pour une harmonie (work in progress!)

• Are these video or audio recordings? Apr 1, 2016 at 5:45
• You can here a part of this from the 18th minute in the talk Un topo sur les topos by Alain Connes. Feb 8, 2018 at 14:06
• Update: you can hear a part of this from the 18th minute in the talk Un topo sur les topos by Alain Connes. Jan 25, 2019 at 15:29
• Feb 9 at 21:36

Another place you can watch Bertrand Russell is in Aman (1967), to my knowledge the unique appearance of a mathematician in a Bollywood film. The relevant part is here:

in which Russell talks with a medical student who is proposing to do research on atom bomb survivors in Japan.

(The Hindi voiceover during the interview just repeats what they're saying in English. In the 30 seconds before Russell appears, the dialogue roughly translates as "A letter from Bertrand Russell! Gee whiz!"

• Poor old man mustve been gritting his teeth through the entire scene! Mar 26, 2011 at 17:18
• "This video is private." Jul 17, 2013 at 13:49

Here is a long video about Richard Courant. Apparently he was one of the first people to own a video camera so there is some really old footage of some of the fathers of modern mathematics. If you scroll to 33:00, you will find footage of David Hilbert shoveling snow!

• The video is no longer avaliable on YouTube, but this seems to be the same one: av-cah.lib.utexas.edu/index.php/Math:E_math_01218 Nov 12, 2016 at 18:31
• That link also seems to be broken now, but you can find the snow shoveling excerpt here Nov 19, 2021 at 2:31

Three lectures by John Milnor on differential topology from 1965:

https://www.simonsfoundation.org/science_lives_video/professor-john-w-milnor/

(Don't know if they had been mentioned in the other video related questions.)

• "That page can’t be found." Jul 17, 2013 at 13:51
• fixed the link. Jul 17, 2013 at 13:58

Here are some videos of French mathematicians :

André Lichnerowicz, speaking about mathematical structures in 1966 : http://www.ina.fr/economie-et-societe/education-et-enseignement/video/I00002874/andre-lichnerowicz-sur-les-mathematiques.fr.html

Laurent Schwartz, speaking about the student contestations in France in May 1968 : http://www.ina.fr/politique/gouvernements/video/I00005058/le-professeur-laurent-schwartz.fr.html

There is also a video tape of an interview of Laurent Schwartz made by the École polytechnique in 1995 (it is not available online but can be purchased here). It contains, among others, a short video extract from a lecture he gave (long ago) to the Polytechnique students. His enthusiast lecturing style is remembered by many, if not all, students from these times.

Finally, the following audio file contains an interview of the probabilist Paul Lévy (1886-1971) made by the French radio "France Culture" in 1971 : http://www.jehps.net/Juin2006/levy.mp3

• Is there any new link available for this Laurent Schwartz video? Aug 3, 2021 at 23:39

On YouTube there are a lot from Paul Erdős. Not to mention the wonderful movie N is a number.

Bertrand Russell, co-author (with Alfred North Whitehead) of Principia Mathematica, interviewed on BBC television in 1959 (three parts):

• At the very end of one of these interviews he is asked for a statement akin to his last words. There are two statements. The first goes like this: "When you are studying anything, or considering any philosophy ask yourself only 'What are the facts, and what is the truth the facts bear out?' Never let yourself be diverted, either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficient social effects if it were believed, but look only and solely at what are the facts." Jan 1, 2019 at 18:19

[a] series of extended interviews with some of the giants of twentieth century mathematics and science,

currently hosts video interviews with

Pierre Deligne, Robert D. MacPherson, Egbert Brieskorn, Paul Sally, Yuri Manin, Chen-ning Yang, Friedrich Hirzebruch, Isadore Singer, and Michael Atiyah.

You Tube has four lectures by Paul Dirac from 1975 in Christchurch.

Here's is one of Einstein

While he's not exactly a mathematician, there is on Youtube a wealth of Richard Feynman lectures and interviews. My personal favourite is part of the "The Character of Physical Law" Messenger Lectures at Cornell, titled the distinction of past and future. (Though, really, all the Messenger lectures are amazing.)

The 1984 BBC Horizon documentary, A mathematical mystery tour, evidently re-edited and re-aired as a PBS Nova documentary, features a number of famous mathematicians as talking heads, including Atiyah, Dieudonné, and Erdős. But in particular, it features René Thom, who can be seen here walking a fine line between conceding Bourbaki's utility and still damning it with faint praise.

I found the video recording of The Atle Selberg Memorial which was held at the IAS a few years back. There is an "archival clip" of Selberg at the IAS included in the same page. This may be the same video which others have already posted. I apologize if it is. Nevertheless, the video recording of the memorial should be of interest.

Also, here is an interview (in PDF format) of his wherein he discusses the dispute arising from the Prime Number Theorem and his trace formula among other things. It makes for a very good reading over a cup of steaming hot coffee.

Timothy Gowers here on youtube lecturing a talk on: The Importance of Mathematics

Here are some videos on Stephen Smale

Someone has created a bunch of links to math videos at http://pinterest.com/mathematicsprof/ -- in particular the sublist at http://pinterest.com/mathematicsprof/famous-mathematicians/ includes a link to a wonderful interview with von Neumann on a 1950s TV show, Youth Wants to Know. That clip can be gotten to directly at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLbllFHBQM4

• I just noticed, the direct link to the von Neumann clip was given by J Verma in comments to the OP's question. Jun 4, 2013 at 21:05

There is a list of 5 interviews of Pierre Cartier on the French radio.

To listen, see: http://www.franceculture.fr/personne-pierre-cartier

The title of this one from YouTube is Einstein, Dirac, Godel, Selberg, Harish-Chandra in Princeton. No audio, unfortunately. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsIlRr65-L4&NR=1

• Erdos and Weyl are in there, too, but apparently didn't rank highly enough to make the title. Mar 15, 2011 at 21:10
• "This video is private." Jul 17, 2013 at 13:52

Here is lecture by Benoit Mandelbrot "Fractals and the art of roughness"

http://www.ted.com At TED2010, mathematics legend Benoit Mandelbrot develops a theme he first discussed at TED in 1984 -- the extreme complexity of roughness, and the way that fractal math can find order within patterns that seem unknowably complicated.

First thing I thought of was the Princeton oral history project about math in the 1930's:

however they don't seem to have the audio online (just transcripts of the interviews, that are still very interesting). I wonder if the audio tapes are accessible at the Mudd library or elsewhere.

In this interview, John H. Conway is interviewed by Chaim Goodman-Strauss for the "Math Factor". The interview mainly focusses on Conway's long time collaboration with the legendary Martin Gardner. Only audio.

• Of course, you can talk to John Conway just by visiting Princeton! Jul 8, 2012 at 17:15
• @DavidCorwin well, that comment did not age so well (it was inevitable). Aug 4, 2021 at 0:26

Here are some interviews with Cornelius Lanczos recored at Manchester University in 1972: