Read Theatre Study Guide: Proof, a play by David Auburn text version


a play by David Auburn

Study Guide Freshman Experience Western Michigan University


Proof is the story of an enigmatic young woman, Catherine, her manipulative sister, their brilliant father, and an unexpected suitor. They are all pieces of the puzzle in the search for the truth behind a mysterious mathematical proof. In Proof, the young but guarded Catherine grieves over the loss of her father, a famous mathematician who had become a legend at the local university for solving complicated proofs, and for suffering from dementia. Just as Catherine begins to give in to her fear that she, too, might suffer from her father's condition, Catherine's older sister Claire returns home to help "settle" family affairs and Hal, one of the father's old students, starts to poke around the house.What Hal discovers in an old speckle-bound notebook brings to light a buried family secret. It tests the sisters' kinship as well as the romantic feelings growing between Catherine and Hal. This poignant drama about love and reconciliation unfolds on the back porch of a house settled in a suburban university town, that is, like David Auburn's writing, both simple and elegant. -- from the Pulitzer Prize Citation

David Auburn:

Biographical Information on the playwright

David Auburn's play PROOF premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club in May 2000, and opened at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre on October 24, 2000. He is the recipient of the Guggenheim Foundation Grant, Helen Merrill Playwrighting Award, and Joseph Kesselring Prize for Drama. His other plays include: SKYSCRAPER, performed at the Greenwich House and published by DPS; FIFTH PLANET, New York Stage and Film; MISS YOU, HBO Comedy Arts Festival; and THE NEXT LIFE, Juilliard School. His work has been published in Harper's Magazine and The New England Review. He was a member of the Juilliard playwrighting program.

Columbia University President George Rupp (left) presents David Auburn with the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. -- from

Proof of What Happens When You Just Let Go

by David Auburn

Part of writing a play is letting it go. It's both exhilarating and a bit frightening when you turn your script over to the director and the actors who will try to make it live. It's a risk--you hope you'll get lucky. With Proof, I did. But when I let this play go I had no idea how far it would travel. The play has been done in London, Tokyo, Manila, Stockholm, Tel Aviv and many other cities; the definitive New York production, directed by Daniel Sullivan, opens in Beverly Hills this week at the Wilshire Theatre. Proof started with two ideas. One was about a pair of sisters: What if, after their father's death, they discovered something valuable left behind in his papers? The other, more of a visual image than anything else, was about a young woman: I saw her sitting up alone, late at night, worried she might inherit her father's mental illness. While trying to see if these ideas fit together, I happened to be reading A Mathematician's Apology, the memoir by the great Cambridge mathematician G. H. Hardy. It's probably the most famous attempt to explain the pleasures of doing math to a non-mathematical audience. One passage particularly startled me. "In a good proof," Hardy wrote, "there is a very high degree of unexpectedness, combined with inevitability and economy. The argument takes so odd and surprising a form: the weapons used seem so childishly simple when compared with the far-reaching consequences; but here is no escape from the conclusions." That sounded like a definition of a good play, too. Math was alien territory to me--I had barely made it through freshman calculus in college--but I decided to set my story in Hardy's world. A mathematical proof became the "thing" the sisters find: my protagonist, Catherine, became convinced that she may have inherited her father's talent--he was a legendary mathematician--as well as his illness. With these elements in place, and feeling inspired by the meetings with the mathematicians I'd begun to have, I was able to finish a draft of the play quickly, in about six weeks. My first play, Skyscraper, had been commercially produced off-Broadway in 1997. Its run was short, but long enough for the literary staff at Manhattan Theater Club to catch a performance. They had invited me to submit my next play--a good break for me, since MTC is the best venue for new work in the city. I sent Proof to them. A few weeks later, it had a star, Mary Louise Parker, a director, Daniel Sullivan, and an opening date for what I assumed would be a six-week run. Proof has now been running for two years. In that time, I've often been surprised at the responses it has generated. At a New York University conference on the play, a panel of

women mathematicians used it to discuss questions of sexism and bias in their professions. After a performance on Broadway I got a note from an audience member backstage: "My daughter is just like Catherine," it said. "I can't communicate with her. Can you help me?" In Chicago, a woman confronted me after a book signing. She told me her father had been a mathematician who'd lost his mind and she'd spent her whole life caring for him. "This is the story of my life," she said. "How did you know?" The answer, of course, is that I didn't, any more than I intended the play to speak directly to the concerns of female academics, or could tell a stranger how to break through to his daughter. When you let a play go, you also take the risk that it will take on associations for people that you didn't intend and can't account for. That risk is the prerogative of art, however, and of the theater in particular. The theater affects us more directly, and unpredictably, than any of the other arts, because the actors are right there in front of us, creating something new every night. "Unexpected and inevitable." Which makes it all work the risk. -- from the Los Angeles Times, 4 June 2002

PBS NewsHour: an Interview with David Auburn

TERENCE SMITH: The prize for drama went to David Auburn for his play "Proof". It's a family drama that unfolds against the backdrop of mathematical theory. The play is a hit at the Walter Kerr theater on Broadway. It's the second full-length play Auburn has written and his first Broadway production. Auburn, who is 31, was born in Chicago and lives in Williamstown. Massachusetts. David, welcome and congratulations. DAVID AUBURN: Thanks very much. SMITH: It must be quite a thrill. Tell me how you heard about the prize and how you felt about it. AUBURN: I was minding my own business at home talking to my wife about what we were going to have for dinner and call waiting deep beeped so I beeped over and they said congratulations you've won the Pulitzer Prize. So I beeped back -SMITH: How did you feel. I'm sorry, go ahead? AUBURN: I went back to my wife and told her we won. And we decided to go out to dinner. SMITH: I would think so. This was only your second full length play. That is, frankly, amazing. AUBURN: Right. My first play was done in '97 off Broadway. The people from the theater that eventually produced "Proof" saw that and encouraged me to submit to them. So that first play did lead pretty much directly to this one. SMITH: Tell us a little about "Proof," what it deals with. AUBURN: It's the story of a young woman, Katherine, who has spent years caring for her father who is a brilliant mathematician, and her father began having various kinds of mental illness problems. She gave up her life to care for him. When the play begins the father died. She is sitting alone on the 25th birthday and wondering is this going to happen to me. How much of my father's mental illness have I inherited and have I inherited any of his talent as well? So the play is about a weekend in other life where she is trying to sort that out and she is trying to deal with her sister, who's flown in from New York and she has some plan's for Katherine's life. There is also a character who is a grad student who is a protégé of the father's who is upstairs in the house looking through the dad's papers hoping to find something he left behind. He also kind of has designs on Katherine. SMITH: David, why did you -- this is a four person play. Three of them are

mathematicians, why? Why mathematicians? AUBURN: Well, I didn't start with the idea about writing about math but I had this idea that the sisters who would start finding over something they found left behind after their dad's death. Since I also had this idea about someone who was worried that they would inheriting their parent's mental illness, I kind of went looking for the thing that the sisters would find, and it seemed to me that a scientific document or a mathematical document could be really interesting. I thought - you know -- its authorship could be called into question in some interesting ways and the historical fact that a number of famous mathematicians have suffered from mental illness kind of gave me the bridge to the other idea about someone worried about their own mental state. So it just seemed to fit the story that I wanted to tell. SMITH: Did you feel any special burden to explain or make accessible the world of the mathematician to the audience? AUBURN: The real trick of writing the play was figuring out how much math to put in it. This ended up being constrained by the story. Since there is a mystery as to who wrote the mathematical proof, I sort of had to withdraw information when I could so that I didn't give away the solution to the mystery but I did try to get in as much kind of lore about the mathematical profession as I could. In that I was helped a lot by reading popular books and spending time with mathematicians. We even had some come in to meet and talk with the cast and talk to them, so that was really the fun part of doing the play, getting as much of the kind of world of mathematics into the play as possible and putting it up on stage. SMITH: As you suggested earlier the essential tension is between the daughter and her late father and her fear, if that is the right word, is it, that along with his possible, his insanity she may have inherited his brilliance? AUBURN: Sure, I think in a way the play is dealing in a heightened way with emotions that a lot of people feel about their families - that I think everyone in some ways both worries and hopes to be like their family, to inherit traits they admire and also to avoid being in some ways -- following in patterns that may be they don't like as much. So, "Proof" kind of deals with that question in a slightly exaggerated or heightened way. But I think if there is a reason why the play is connected with audiences, that might be the reason. SMITH: How did you get in the business of writing plays? AUBURN: I started in college. I didn't know I wanted to be a writer but I got into a student troupe that did comedy reviews. We did sketch reviews in the style of Second City kind of thing. and I started writing sketches, and I found out I liked doing it and I could do it. And the sketches kind of gradually got longer and longer. And pretty soon I had written a play. I kept going from there. I moved to New York and started trying to writing plays and getting them put on in tiny theaters and eventually I got into the Julliard

play writing program which was a great kind of incubator - when you're starting out -- it enabled me to write some write plays and have them read by wonderful actors at Julliard. And, you know, just gradually developed enough material and met enough people that by the time I had written a full-length play, I could -- someone could help me put it on. SMITH: Did this play come easily or was it a long labor? AUBURN: It was a little bit of both. The first draft came very fast and the whole plot and structure of the play was there from the beginning. I knew what was going to happen in the story and what was going to happen in every scene. So that came quickly then going back through it and really figuring out the relationship between the characters and sort of putting some meat on the bones of the play that I -- the first draft that I had written that took a long time. I probably -- it was probably about nine months or something like that before I had a draft that's substantially like the draft that is in performance now. SMITH: What is next for you? Is it another play? A screenplay, what is next? AUBURN: Well, right now I'm doing a screen play adaptation of a novel for a movie company, which is interesting work, but it's not my story. And I hope in months I'll write a new play. With any luck that will happen. SMITH: So we'll get to see a little more of David Auburn on the stage. AUBURN: That's my hope. SMITH: That's great. Thank you very much, David Auburn and congratulations again. AUBURN: Thanks a lot. -- from

Robert Osserman, of the Mathematical Association of America, interviews David Auburn

By Gerald L. Alexanderson

The play Proof, as everyone associated with mathematics must know by now, has been an enormous success on Broadway. Now it has begun a national tour at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. To mark the occasion the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) at Berkeley arranged to have the playwright, David Auburn, interviewed by Robert Osserman on stage at the theatre two days after the play opened its month-long San Francisco run, on November 29. The San Francisco Chronicle reported a $2 million advance ticket sale. Not bad for a play about mathematics and mental illness! MSRI has arranged events of this kind before, an interview with George V. Coyne, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory, and the actor Michael Winters, on the occasion of a Bay Area production of Brecht's Galileo, and an interview with Tom Stoppard about his play Arcadia. Previous settings for these interviews have been the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. The Curran is quite another matter, a large and elegant house, built in the 1920's, and home traditionally to traveling companies of Broadway musicals. Never before has there been so much mathematical talk heard in the lobby and in the auditorium. Auburn is not a well-known name in the theatre like Brecht or Stoppard, at least not until Proof, which was his second full-length play. From an initial off-Broadway run at the Manhattan Theatre Club it moved up Broadway to the Walter Kerr Theatre and now to a national tour, after picking up the Joseph Kesselring Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the Drama Desk Award, and the Tony Award for Best Play of 2001. The New York run continues. One of Osserman's opening questions concerned Auburn's background. He attended the University of Chicago where he studied political philosophy and where his formal mathematical education ended with calculus. But he had an interest in theatre and wrote sketches in the tradition of Second City and a one-act play while still in college. After graduating he went to New York and worked for a chemical company writing copy for labels for a carpet shampoo! And then he attended Juilliard, acting and writing until he decided to give up acting. Proof is a play about a young woman who had taken care of her mathematician-father for several years prior to his death that came after a long bout with mental illness. Auburn was asked whether he had planned from the beginning to write about a mathematician. He did not. He started out by being interested in the question of whether mental illness, as well as talent, can be inherited -- the mathematical connections came later. As part of the interview Osserman and Auburn read two provocative and very amusing passages from the play (Osserman played Catherine, the young woman, and Auburn played Hal, a young protégé of Catherine's father). The passages touched on various misconceptions (or are they?) about mathematicians -- (1) that it is a young man's

profession (and here we emphasize the word "man"), (2) that there is something that predisposes mathematicians to mental instability, and (3) that only brilliant results count in mathematics and that less exalted research and teaching (high school teaching is referred to as a sign of failure) are lesser activities, to be eschewed by those in the lofty realms of the highest level of mathematical research. Catherine in the play has been trained (up to a certain point) as a mathematician, so a question is raised and tackled in the play -- can a woman really do highly original work? The lack of a woman on the list of Fields Medalists and the appearance only a few years ago of the first woman to place among the top five in the Putnam Competition -- both of these were cited in the discussion. Clearly, in this area at least, perceptions have changed in the last decade or two. Then the question arose: whether the mathematical life is really all over at the age of 40 (as is implied by the tradition in awarding Fields Medals). Osserman pointed out that though great original breakthroughs might be seen more often in the young, mathematicians continue to carry on productive lives into their 50s, 60s and 70s. The idea that what really matters in mathematics is the highest level research probably still dominates the thinking in many circles. Auburn touched on all of these questions. He described mathematics as a remarkable subculture. But how did he find out so much about the culture without having seriously studied mathematics? It became clear that he has read a lot and has considerable familiarity with the biographies of Erdos, Nash, Ramanujan, and others. He was asked why the principal character is a woman and he responded that a man would not be expected to stay home to take care of an ailing father. There are a few claims made in the play that one might question -- the level of drug use among mathematicians, for example, obviously something suggested by one of the Erdos biographies. Occasionally there are bits of mathematics. At the mention of Sophie Germain, Hal recalls, after a slight hesitation, Germain primes and Catherine blurts out "92,305 x 216,998 + 1". Hal is startled that she seems to know this, but then Catherine claims that it is the largest one known -- not so, though it may have been at the time of the action of the play, which is left ambiguous in the printed version. (According to the web page,, the largest Germain prime is 109433307 x 266452 ­ 1.) Osserman raised the question of whether Auburn was consciously aware of the parallel between Arcadia and Proof. In both plays there is a very clever young woman who has remarkable insights into mathematics and is "mentored," in a way, by a slightly older man who is well-trained in mathematics but much less original in his thinking. Auburn appeared unaware of the parallel but admitted to being an admirer of Stoppard and his plays. But when asked whether he was strongly influenced by Stoppard, he said that he was more influenced by the people who wrote sketches years ago, like Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and by John Guare and David Mamet. A much discussed aspect of Proof has been made even more interesting of late with the imminent appearance of the film, A Beautiful Mind, based, we understand, quite loosely

on the biography of John Forbes Nash by Sylvia Nasar. What about this connection between insanity and mathematics? Is it really true that a special kind of person is drawn to mathematics? Auburn had said earlier that he was fascinated by the "romantic quality of mathematical work," the solitary worker in an attic somewhere (obviously an idea inspired by Andrew Wiles) working on a problem and coming up with something entirely original. He also said that mathematicians have rather edgy personalities and they make leaps of the mind that most people just cannot make. So he thinks there may be some kind of causal relationship between being a mathematician and suffering from a mental breakdown. Osserman cited four people whom he considers to be "romantic" figures in mathematics: Hypatia, Galois, Turing and van Heijenoort. Their stories are well-known to a mathematical audience -- but others could be added to this short list: Abel and Ramanujan (if Hardy was a good judge) come to mind. But not one of these could be viewed as being insane -- eccentric in one or two cases, maybe, but not insane. Osserman cited a study that ranked various professions by the numbers of adherents to the field who have also suffered from mental illness. Poets ranked at the top of the list. People in the creative arts are two or three times as likely to suffer from psychosis as scientists (mathematicians were not cited separately), according to K. R. Jamison in Touched with Fire. Auburn said he had read of enough cases to justify writing his play about mathematicians. Besides, people are used to hearing about mad scientists. Who would want to read about a perfectly sane scientist? Osserman responded by saying they might want to read about mad poets. Those who have seen the excerpts of Proof on the Tony Awards or the interview on the Charlie Rose Show with the Tony Award winning star, Mary-Louise Parker, from the New York cast, may not realize how funny this play is. The excerpts at the Curran were read to a very receptive audience. They picked up every joke. So what will the author do next? He said he has decided not to follow Proof with another mathematical play. He's working on two projects, one on the Spanish Civil War and the other on twentieth-century spiritualism, including Houdini! Meanwhile, until he produces another mathematical play, watch the MSRI website for the next event in this series, an interview with Michael Frayn, author of Copenhagen, the play about Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg which won the Tony Award for Best Play the previous year. That play opens at the Curran in San Francisco in January. --from

David Auburn: Broadway's Rising Star

by Jennifer Kiger

Just over two years ago most theatergoers had not heard of David Auburn, but that all changed in the blink of an eye because of one play--Proof. In May 2000 the Manhattan Theatre Club premiered what was only Auburn's second full-length play. Proof was an instant hit with audiences and critics. The production was transferred quickly to Broadway, where it earned award after award, including the 2001 Tony for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Pretty good for someone writing only his second full-length play, but as is the case in most success stories, Auburn did not reach the top overnight. Born in Chicago, David Auburn was reared in the Midwest, moving from Ohio to Arkansas. He returned to the University of Chicago where he earned a degree in English Literature while working with a group that performed improvisational and sketch comedy. Auburn began writing short comic scenes for the group. Eventually, the sketches got longer and Auburn produced a one-act with the help of his friends at school. In his final year at the University of Chicago, Auburn applied for a writing fellowship with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment. He had not planned on a career in writing, but he won the fellowship and soon he was off to Los Angeles to write screenplays. Once the fellowship ended, Auburn was faced with a choice. Should he stay in L.A. as a struggling screenwriter, or should he make a go of it in New York? The theatre held more interest for Auburn, and as he relocated to New York, he made a commitment to be a playwright. A succession of "boring day jobs" followed as Auburn formed a theater company with friends and continued to write. After producing his own work in small venues, he joined the playwriting program at Juilliard. For the first time, he received professional feedback on his work from worldclass mentors like Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman. "In the eight years it took to begin to earn any money from playwriting, there was always a lot of doubt. I had all the troubles that most writers have trying to build a career, trying to figure it out. I thought, `Can I do this? Am I going to wind up sorry that I did this, in ten years?'" Juilliard provided the young writer with support and validation. It also gave him the opportunity to develop his work with the help of strong actors. "Having actors as good as those at Juilliard do your work forces you to think seriously about how professional actors will approach the material you write. That was one of the best things about the program--learning what kinds of questions actors ask when they approach a new script and being able to think through those problems before you get into rehearsal. That was invaluable." His first full-length play, Skyscraper, was produced Off-Broadway in 1997. The production had a short run, but representatives from the Manhattan Theatre Club caught it. They invited Auburn to submit his next play. That play was Proof.

Auburn had written Skyscraper as a student at Juilliard. It was more of an abstract piece, one that focused on form and concept. As he prepared to write Proof, Auburn decided to try a different kind of writing. He wanted to concentrate on character and work in a more naturalistic palette. "I don't know if the cliché of `finding your voice' is true, but I felt like the direction I wanted to work in was a less absurd, more realistic mode, which is what Proof is. Once I arrived at that, it felt very good. It felt like the right direction for me." He wrote Proof while in London in 1998. He had moved there with his future wife, Frances Rosenfeld, who was researching her doctorate in history. Although three of the four characters in Proof are mathematicians and the plot concerns the authorship of a scientific document, the play did not begin there. "I started with the idea of two sisters fighting over something that a parent had left behind after [his] death and the idea of a character worried about inheriting [her] parent's mental illness." Auburn searched for the subject of the sisters' conflict. He wanted an item whose authorship could be called into question and decided that a mathematical proof would serve the drama nicely. When he started writing the play, math was foreign to him. He read biographies and surveys on the history of mathematics, and he consulted with mathematicians. "The most challenging part of the play was finding a balance between the math and the story. I would probably have liked to add more mathematical information, but that was really constrained by the plot. Catherine is so reluctant to reveal herself. There's a limit to how much she can talk about her work. I wanted to find the right amount so that [the math] was convincing and plausible, but not so much that Catherine's motivations no longer made sense." The result is an utterly accessible, poignant drama that navigates the passions of the human heart with humor and intelligence. Proof will be the most produced contemporary play this year (29 productions are planned throughout the US, nine in Canada and more are planned around the globe). Meanwhile, David Auburn is grateful for the success of Proof, but he is not resting on his laurels. He is currently working on a new play, a screenplay and a libretto for an opera. Also, he and his wife recently welcomed an addition to their family: their first child, a daughter. "I try not to ask broader questions about the shape of my career at this point. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do the work I want to do with a certain amount of freedom. I think that is an unusual blessing, and I'm just trying to do that work." From SCR's January 2003 SubSCRiber Newsletter. Quotes excerpted from "A Conversation with David Auburn, Moderated by Christian Parker" published in The Dramatist Magazine, May-June 2002 and from a telephone interview with David Auburn conducted by Jennifer Kiger in December 2002.

The Winner's Circle:

some of the awards that "Proof" has won to date

· 2001 Tony Awards®: 2001 Tony Award®, Best Play -- Written by David Auburn; Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club (Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director; Barry Grove, Executive Producer), Roger Berlind, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Jujamcyn Theaters (James H. Binger: Chairman; Rocco Landesman: President; Paul Libin: Producing Director; Jack Viertel: Creative Director), OSTAR Enterprises, Daryl Roth, Stuart Thompson 2001 Tony Award®, Best Actress in a Play -- Mary-Louise Parker 2001 Tony Award®, Best Direction of a Play -- Daniel Sullivan 2001 Tony Award® Nominees, Best Featured Actor in a Play -- Larry Bryggman, Ben Shenkman 2001 Tony Award® Nominee, Best Featured Actress in a Play -- Johanna Day · · 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama ­ David Auburn 2001 Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Play Proof Best Actress in a Play Mary-Louise Parker, Proof · 2001 New York Drama Critics Circle Awards: Best American Play: Proof by David Auburn · 2000­2001 Outer Critics Circle Awards: Broadway Play -- Proof Actress in a Play -- Mary-Louise Parker, Proof John Gassner Playwrighting Award -- David Auburn, Proof

HISTORY OF THE PRIZES In the latter years of the 19th century, Joseph Pulitzer stood out as the very embodiment of American journalism. Hungarian-born, an intense indomitable figure, Pulitzer was the most skillful of newspaper publishers, a passionate crusader against dishonest government, a fierce, hawk-like competitor who did not shrink from sensationalism in circulation struggles, and a visionary who richly endowed his profession. His innovative New York World and St. Louis Post-Dispatch reshaped newspaper journalism. Pulitzer was the first to call for the training of journalists at the university level in a school of journalism. And certainly, the lasting influence of the Pulitzer Prizes on journalism, literature, music, and drama is to be attributed to his visionary acumen. In writing his 1904 will, which made provision for the establishment of the Pulitzer Prizes as an incentive to excellence, Pulitzer specified solely four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one for education, and four traveling scholarships. In letters, prizes were to go to an American novel, an original American play performed in New York, a book on the history of the United States, an American biography, and a history of public service by the press. But, sensitive to the dynamic progression of his society Pulitzer made provision for broad changes in the system of awards. He established an overseer advisory board and willed it "power in its discretion to suspend or to change any subject or subjects, substituting, however, others in their places, if in the judgment of the board such suspension, changes, or substitutions shall be conducive to the public good or rendered advisable by public necessities, or by reason of change of time." He also empowered the board to withhold any award where entries fell below its standards of excellence. The assignment of power to the board was such that it could also overrule the recommendations for awards made by the juries subsequently set up in each of the categories. Since the inception of the prizes in 1917, the board, later renamed the Pulitzer Prize Board, has increased the number of awards to 21 and introduced poetry, music, and photography as subjects, while adhering to the spirit of the founder's will and its intent. The board typically exercised its broad discretion in 1997, the 150th anniversary of Pulitzer's birth, in two fundamental respects. It took a significant step in recognition of the growing importance of work being done by newspapers in online journalism. Beginning with the 1999 competition, the board sanctioned the submission by newspapers of online presentations as supplements to print exhibits in the Public Service category. The board left open the distinct possibility of further inclusions in the Pulitzer process of online journalism as the electronic medium developed. The other major change was in music, a category that was added to the Plan of Award for prizes in 1943. The prize always had gone to composers of classical music. The definition and entry requirements of the music category beginning with the 1998 competition were broadened to attract a wider range of American music. In an indication of the trend toward bringing mainstream music into the Pulitzer process, the 1997 prize went to Wynton Marsalis's "Blood on the Fields," which has strong jazz elements, the first such award. In music, the board also took tacit note of the criticism leveled at its predecessors for failure to cite two of the country's foremost jazz composers. It bestowed a Special Award on George Gershwin marking the 1998 centennial celebration of his birth and Duke Ellington on his 1999 centennial year.

Over the years the Pulitzer board has at times been targeted by critics for awards made or not made. Controversies also have arisen over decisions made by the board counter to the advice of juries. Given the subjective nature of the award process, this was inevitable. The board has not been captive to popular inclinations. Many, if not most, of the honored books have not been on bestseller lists, and many of the winning plays have been staged off-Broadway or in regional theaters. In journalism the major newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, have harvested many of the awards, but the board also has often reached out to work done by small, little-known papers. The Public Service award in 1995 went to The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas, for its disclosure of the links between the region's rampant crime rate and corruption in the local criminal justice system. In letters, the board has grown less conservative over the years in matters of taste. In 1963 the drama jury nominated Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but the board found the script insufficiently "uplifting," a complaint that related to arguments over sexual permissiveness and rough dialogue. In 1993 the prize went to Tony Kushner's "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches," a play that dealt with problems of homosexuality and AIDS and whose script was replete with obscenities. On the same debated issue of taste, the board in 1941 denied the fiction prize to Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, but gave him the award in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea, a lesser work. Notwithstanding these contretemps, from its earliest days, the board has in general stood firmly by a policy of secrecy in its deliberations and refusal to publicly debate or defend its decisions. The challenges have not lessened the reputation of the Pulitzer Prizes as the country's most prestigious awards and as the most sought-after accolades in journalism, letters, and music. The Prizes are perceived as a major incentive for high-quality journalism and have focused worldwide attention on American achievements in letters and music. The formal announcement of the prizes, made each April, states that the awards are made by the president of Columbia University on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize board. This formulation is derived from the Pulitzer will, which established Columbia as the seat of the administration of the prizes. Today, in fact, the independent board makes all the decisions relative to the prizes. In his will Pulitzer bestowed an endowment on Columbia of $2,000,000 for the establishment of a School of Journalism, one-fourth of which was to be "applied to prizes or scholarships for the encouragement of public, service, public morals, American literature, and the advancement of education." In doing so, he stated: "I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people. I desire to assist in attracting to this profession young men of character and ability, also to help those already engaged in the profession to acquire the highest moral and intellectual training." In his ascent to the summit of American journalism, Pulitzer himself received little or no assistance. He prided himself on being a self-made man, but it may have been his struggles as a young journalist that imbued him with the desire to foster professional training.

JOSEPH PULITZER, 1847­1911 Joseph Pulitzer was born in Mako, Hungary on April 10, 1847, the son of a wealthy grain merchant of Magyar-Jewish origin and a German mother who was a devout Roman Catholic. His younger brother, Albert, was trained for the priesthood but never attained it. The elder Pulitzer retired in Budapest and Joseph grew up and was educated there in private schools and by tutors. Restive at the age of seventeen, the gangling 6'2" youth decided to become a soldier and tried in turn to enlist in the Austrian Army, Napoleon's Foreign Legion for duty in Mexico, and the British Army for service in India. He was rebuffed because of weak eyesight and frail health, which were to plague him for the rest of his life. However, in Hamburg, Germany, he encountered a bounty recruiter for the U.S. Union Army and contracted to enlist as a substitute for a draftee, a procedure permitted under the Civil War draft system. At Boston he jumped ship and, as the legend goes, swam to shore, determined to keep the enlistment bounty for himself rather than leave it to the agent. Pulitzer collected the bounty by enlisting for a year in the Lincoln Cavalry, which suited him since there were many Germans in the unit. He was fluent in German and French but spoke very little English. Later, he worked his way to St. Louis. While doing odd jobs there, such as muleteer, baggage handler, and waiter, he immersed himself in the city's Mercantile Library, studying English and the law. His great career opportunity came in a unique manner in the library's chess room. Observing the game of two habitues, he astutely critiqued a move and the players, impressed, engaged Pulitzer in conversation. The players were editors of the leading German language daily, Westliche Post, and a job offer followed. Four years later, in 1872, the young Pulitzer, who had built a reputation as a tireless enterprising journalist, was offered a controlling interest in the paper by the nearly bankrupt owners. At age 25, Pulitzer became a publisher and there followed a series of shrewd business deals from which he emerged in 1878 as the owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and a rising figure on the journalistic scene. Earlier in the same year, he and Kate Davis, a socially prominent Washingtonian woman, were married in the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Hungarian immigrant youth - once a vagrant on the slum streets of St. Louis and taunted as "Joey the Jew" - had been transformed. Now he was an American citizen and as speaker, writer, and editor had mastered English extraordinarily well. Elegantly dressed, wearing a handsome, reddishbrown beard and pince-nez glasses, he mixed easily with the social elite of St. Louis, enjoying dancing at fancy parties and horseback riding in the park. This lifestyle was abandoned abruptly when he came into the ownership of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. James Wyman Barrett, the last city editor of The New York World, records in his biography Joseph Pulitzer and His World how Pulitzer, in taking hold of the PostDispatch, "worked at his desk from early morning until midnight or later, interesting himself in every detail of the paper." Appealing to the public to accept that his paper was their champion, Pulitzer splashed investigative articles and editorials assailing government corruption, wealthy tax-dodgers, and gamblers. This populist appeal was effective, circulation mounted, and the paper prospered. Pulitzer would have been pleased to know that in the conduct of the Pulitzer Prize system which he later established, more awards in journalism would go to exposure of corruption than to any other subject.

Pulitzer paid a price for his unsparingly rigorous work at his newspaper. His health was undermined and, with his eyes failing, Pulitzer and his wife set out in 1883 for New York to board a ship on a doctor-ordered European vacation. Stubbornly, instead of boarding the steamer in New York, he met with Jay Gould, the financier, and negotiated the purchase of The New York World, which was in financial straits. Putting aside his serious health concerns, Pulitzer immersed himself in its direction, bringing about what Barrett describes as a "one-man revolution" in the editorial policy, content, and format of The World. He employed some of the same techniques that had built up the circulation of the Post-Dispatch. He crusaded against public and private corruption, filled the news columns with a spate of sensationalized features, made the first extensive use of illustrations, and staged news stunts. In one of the most successful promotions, The World raised public subscriptions for the building of a pedestal at the entrance to the New York harbor so that the Statue of Liberty, which was stranded in France awaiting shipment, could be emplaced. The formula worked so well that in the next decade the circulation of The World in all its editions climbed to more than 600,000, and it reigned as the largest circulating newspaper in the country. But unexpectedly Pulitzer himself became a victim of the battle for circulation when Charles Anderson Dana, publisher of The Sun, frustrated by the success of The World launched vicious personal attacks on him as "the Jew who had denied his race and religion." The unrelenting campaign was designed to alienate New York's Jewish community from The World. Pulitzer's health was fractured further during this ordeal and in 1890, at the age of 43, he withdrew from the editorship of The World and never returned to its newsroom. Virtually blind, having in his severe depression succumbed also to an illness that made him excruciatingly sensitive to noise, Pulitzer went abroad frantically seeking cures. He failed to find them, and the next two decades of his life he spent largely in soundproofed "vaults," as he referred to them, aboard his yacht, Liberty, in the "Tower of Silence" at his vacation retreat in Bar Harbor Maine, and at his New York mansion. During those years, although he traveled very frequently, Pulitzer managed, nevertheless, to maintain the closest editorial and business direction of his newspapers. To ensure secrecy in his communications he relied on a code that filled a book containing some 20,000 names and terms. During the years 1896 to 1898 Pulitzer was drawn into a bitter circulation battle with William Randolph Hearst's Journal in which there were no apparent restraints on sensationalism or fabrication of news. When the Cubans rebelled against Spanish rule, Pulitzer and Hearst sought to outdo each other in whipping up outrage against the Spanish. Both called for war against Spain after the U.S. battleship Maine mysteriously blew up and sank in Havana harbor on February 16, 1898. Congress reacted to the outcry with a war resolution. After the four-month war, Pulitzer withdrew from what had become known as "yellow journalism." The World became more restrained and served as the influential editorial voice on many issues of the Democratic Party. In the view of historians, Pulitzer's lapse into "yellow journalism" was outweighed by his public service achievements. He waged courageous and often successful crusades against corrupt practices in government and business. He was responsible to a large extent for passage of antitrust legislation and regulation of the insurance industry. In 1909, The World exposed a fraudulent payment of $40 million by the United States to the French Panama Canal Company. The federal government lashed

back at The World by indicting Pulitzer for criminally libeling President Theodore Roosevelt and the banker J.P. Morgan, among others. Pulitzer refused to retreat, and The World persisted in its investigation. When the courts dismissed the indictments, Pulitzer was applauded for a crucial victory on behalf of freedom of the press. In May 1904, writing in The North American Review in support of his proposal for the founding of a school of journalism, Pulitzer summarized his credo: "Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations." In 1912, one year after Pulitzer's death aboard his yacht, the Columbia School of Journalism was founded, and the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded in 1917 under the supervision of the advisory board to which he had entrusted his mandate. Pulitzer envisioned an advisory board composed principally of newspaper publishers. Others would include the president of Columbia University and scholars, and "persons of distinction who are not journalists or editors." In 2000 the board was composed of two news executives, eight editors, five academics including the president of Columbia University and the dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, one columnist, and the administrator of the prizes. The dean and the administrator are nonvoting members. The chair rotates annually to the most senior member. The board is selfperpetuating in the election of members. Voting members may serve three terms of three years. In the selection of the members of the board and of the juries, close attention is given to professional excellence and affiliation, as well as diversity in terms of gender, ethnic background, geographical distribution, and in the choice of journalists and size of newspaper. THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE PULITZER PRIZES More than 2,000 entries are submitted each year in the Pulitzer Prize competitions, and only 21 awards are normally made. The awards are the culmination of a year-long process that begins early in the year with the appointment of 102 distinguished judges who serve on 20 separate juries and are asked to make three nominations in each of the 21 categories. By February 1, the Administrator's office in the Columbia School of Journalism has received the journalism entries -in 2004, typically 1,423. Entries for journalism awards may be submitted by any individual from material appearing in a United States newspaper published daily, Sunday, or at least once a week during the calendar year. In early March, 77 editors, publishers, writers, and educators gather in the School of Journalism to judge the entries in the 14 journalism categories. From 19641999 each journalism jury consisted of five members. Due to the growing number of entries in the public service, investigative reporting, beat reporting, feature writing and commentary categories, these juries were enlarged to seven members beginning in 1999. The jury members, working intensively for three days, examine every entry before making their nominations. Exhibits in the public service, cartoon, and photography categories are limited to 20 articles, cartoons, or pictures, and in the remaining categories,

to 10 articles or editorials - except for feature writing, which has a maximum of five articles. In photography, a single jury judges both the Breaking News category and the Feature category. Since the inception of the prizes the journalism categories have been expanded and repeatedly redefined by the board to keep abreast of the evolution of American journalism. The cartoons prize was created in 1922. The prize for photography was established in 1942, and in 1968 the category was divided into spot or breaking news and feature. With the development of computer-altered photos, the board stipulated in 1995 that "no entry whose content is manipulated or altered, apart from standard newspaper cropping and editing, will be deemed acceptable." These are the Pulitzer Prize category definitions for the 2004 competition: 1. For a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper through the use of its journalistic resources which may include editorials, cartoons, and photographs, as well as reporting. 2. For a distinguished example of local reporting of breaking news. 3. For a distinguished example of investigative reporting by an individual or team, presented as a single article or series. 4. For a distinguished example of explanatory reporting that illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing and clear presentation. 5. For a distinguished example of beat reporting characterized by sustained and knowledgeable coverage of a particular subject or activity. 6. For a distinguished example of reporting on national affairs. 7. For a distinguished example of reporting on international affairs, including United Nations correspondence. 8. For a distinguished example of feature writing giving prime consideration to high literary quality and originality. 9. For distinguished commentary. 10. For distinguished criticism. 11. For distinguished editorial writing, the test of excellence being clearness of style, moral purpose, sound reasoning, and power to influence public opinion in what the writer conceives to be the right direction. 12. For a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons published during the year, characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing, and pictorial

effect. 13. For a distinguished example of breaking news photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs, a sequence or an album. 14. For a distinguished example of feature photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs, a sequence or an album. While the journalism process goes forward, shipments of books totaling some 800 titles are being sent to five letters juries for their judging in these categories: · For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. · For a distinguished book upon the history of the United States. · For a distinguished biography or autobiography by an American author. · For a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author. · For a distinguished book of non-fiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category. The award in poetry was established in 1922 and that for non-fiction in 1962. Unlike the other awards which are made for works in the calendar year, eligibility in drama extends from March 2 to March 1, and in music from January 16 to January 15. The drama jury of four critics and one academic attend plays both in New York and the regional theaters. The award in drama goes to a playwright but production of the play as well as script are taken into account. The music jury, usually made up of four composers and one newspaper critic, meet in New York to listen to recordings and study the scores of pieces, which in 2004 numbered 82. The category definition states: For distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year. The final act of the annual competition is enacted in early April when the board assembles in the Pulitzer World Room of the Columbia School of Journalism. In prior weeks, the board had read the texts of the journalism entries and the 15 nominated books, listened to music cassettes, read the scripts of the nominated plays, and attended the performances or seen videos where possible. By custom, it is incumbent on board members not to vote on any award under consideration in drama or letters if they have not seen the play or read the book. There are subcommittees for letters and music whose members usually give a lead to discussions. Beginning with letters and music, the board, in turn, reviews the nominations of each jury for two days. Each jury is required to offer three nominations but in no order of preference, although the jury chair in a letter accompanying the submission can broadly reflect the views of the members. Board discussions are animated and often hotly debated. Work done by individuals tends to be favored. In journalism, if more than three individuals are cited in an entry, any prize goes to the newspaper. Awards are usually made by majority vote, but the board is also

empowered to vote 'no award,' or by three-fourths vote to select an entry that has not been nominated or to switch nominations among the categories. If the board is dissatisfied with the nominations of any jury, it can ask the Administrator to consult with the chair by telephone to ascertain if there are other worthy entries. Meanwhile, the deliberations continue. Both the jury nominations and the awards voted by the board are held in strict confidence until the announcement of the prizes, which takes place about a week after the meeting in the World Room. Towards three o'clock p.m. (Eastern Time) of the day of the announcement, in hundreds of newsrooms across the United States, journalists gather about news agency tickers to wait for the bulletins that bring explosions of joy and celebrations to some and disappointment to others. The announcement is made precisely at three o'clock after a news conference held by the administrator in the World Room. Apart from accounts carried prominently by newspapers, television, and radio, the details appear on the Pulitzer Web site. The announcement includes the name of the winner in each category as well as the names of the other two finalists. The three finalists in each category are the only entries in the competition that are recognized by the Pulitzer office as nominees. The announcement also lists the board members and the names of the jurors (which have previously been kept confidential to avoid lobbying.) A gold medal is awarded to the winner in Public Service. Along with the certificates in the other categories, there are cash awards of $10,000, raised in 2002 from $7,500. Four Pulitzer fellowships of $7,500 each are also awarded annually on the recommendation of the faculty of the School of Journalism. They enable three of its outstanding graduates to travel, report, and study abroad and one fellowship is awarded to a graduate who wishes to specialize in drama, music, literary, film, or television criticism. For most recipients of the Pulitzer prizes, the cash award is only incidental to the prestige accruing to them and their works. There are numerous competitions that bestow far larger cash awards, yet which do not rank in public perception on a level with the Pulitzers. The Pulitzer accolade on the cover of a book or on the marquee of a theater where a prize-winning play is being staged usually does translate into commercial gain. The Pulitzer process initially was funded by investment income from the original endowment. But by the 1970s the program was suffering a loss each year. In 1978 the advisory board established a foundation for the creation of a supplementary endowment, and fund raising on its behalf continued through the 1980s. The program is now comfortably funded with investment income from the two endowments and the $50 fee charged for each entry into the competitions. The investment portfolios are administered by Columbia University. Members of the Pulitzer Prize Board and journalism jurors receive no compensation. The jurors in letters, music, and drama, in appreciation of their year-long work, receive honoraria, raised to $2,000, effective in 1999. Unlike the elaborate ceremonies and royal banquets attendant upon the presentation of the Nobel Prizes in Stockholm and Oslo, Pulitzer winners receive their prizes from the president of Columbia University at a modest luncheon in May in the rotunda of the Low Library in the presence of family members, professional associates, board members, and

the faculty of the School of Journalism. The board has declined offers to transform the occasion into a television extravaganza. The Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners is more than simply a roster of names and biographical data. It is a list of people in journalism, letters, and music whose accomplishments enable researchers to trace the historical evolution of their respective fields and the development of American society. We are indebted to Joseph Pulitzer for this and an array of other contributions to the quality of our lives. Seymour Topping was Administrator of The Pulitzer Prizes and Professor of International Journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism of Columbia University from 1993 to 2002. After serving in World War II, Professor Topping worked for 10 years for The Associated Press as a correspondent in China, Indochina, London, and Berlin. He left The Associated Press in 1959 to join The New York Times, where he remained for 34 years, serving as a foreign correspondent, foreign editor, managing editor, and editorial director of the company's 32 regional newspapers. In 1992-1993 he served as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He is a graduate of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Adapted from Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners by Elizabeth A. Brennan and Elizabeth C. Clarage, copyright 1999 by The Oryx Press. Used with permission from The Oryx Press, 4041 N. Central Ave., Suite 700 Phoenix, AZ 85012, 800 279-6799.

Math's Hidden Woman

the true story of Sophie Germain, an 18th-century woman who assumed a man's identity in order to pursue her passion -attempting to prove Fermat's Last Theorem

From FERMAT'S ENIGMA: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem by Simon Singh Published by Walker and Company Pythagoras' theorem leads to one of the best understood equations in mathematics: x2 + y2 = z2 There are many whole number solutions to this equation, e.g., 32+ 42= 52 In the 17th century the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat set a challenge for future generations of mathematicians -- prove that there are no whole number solutions for the following closely related family of equations: x3 + y3 = z3 x4 + y4 = z4 x5 + y5 = z5 x6 + y6 = z6 etc. Although these equations appear similar to Pythagoras' equation, Fermat's Last Theorem claims that these equations have no solutions. The difficulty in proving that this is the case revolves around the fact that there are an infinite number of equations, and an infinite number of possible values for x, y, and z. The proof has to prove that no solutions exist within this infinity of infinities. Nonetheless, Fermat claimed he had a proof. The proof was never written down, so the challenge has been to rediscover the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. Monsieur Le Blanc By the beginning of the 19th century, Fermat's Last Theorem had already established itself as the most challenging problem in number theory. Mathematicians had merely succeeded in showing that there are no solutions to the following equations: x3 + y3 = z3 x4 + y4 = z4

An infinite number of other equations remained, and mathematicians still had to demonstrate that none of these had any solutions. There was no progress until a young French woman reinvigorated the pursuit of Fermat's lost proof. Sophie Germain was born on April 1, 1776 the daughter of a merchant, AmbroiseFrancois Germain. Outside of her work, her life was to be dominated by the turmoil of the French Revolution. The year she discovered her love of numbers, the Bastille was stormed, and her study of calculus was shadowed by the Reign of Terror. Although her father was financially successful, Sophie's family members were not of the aristocracy. Had she been born into high society, her study of mathematics might have been more acceptable. Although aristocratic women were not actively encouraged to study mathematics, they were expected to have sufficient knowledge of the subject in order to be able to discuss the topic should it arise during polite conversation. To this end, a series of text books were written to help young women understand the latest developments in mathematics and science. Francesco Algarotti was the author of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy Explain'd for the Use of Ladies. Because Algarotti believed that women were only interested in romance, he attempted to explain Newton's discoveries through the flirtatious dialogue between a Marquise and her interlocutor. The interlocutor outlines the inverse square law of gravitational attraction, whereupon the Marquise gives her own interpretation on this fundamental law of physics. "I cannot help thinking ... that this proportion in the squares of the distances of places ... is observed even in love. Thus after eight days absence, love becomes 64 time less than it was the first day." Not surprisingly, this gallant genre of books was not responsible for inspiring Sophie Germain's interest in mathematics. The event that changed her life occurred one day when she was browsing in her father's library and chanced upon Jean-Étienne Montucla's book History of Mathematics. The chapter that caught her imagination was Montucla's essay on the life of Archimedes. His account of Archimedes' discoveries was undoubtedly interesting, but what particularly kindled her fascination was the story surrounding his death. Archimedes had spent his life at Syracuse studying mathematics in relative tranquillity, but when he was in his late 70s, the peace was shattered by the invading Roman army. Legend had it that, during the invasion, Archimedes was so engrossed in the study of a geometric figure in the sand that he failed to respond to the questioning of a Roman soldier. As a result, he was speared to death. Germain concluded that if somebody could be so consumed by a geometric problem that it could lead to their death, then mathematics must be the most captivating subject in the world. She immediately set about teaching herself the basics of number theory and calculus, and soon she was working late into the night studying the works of Euler and Newton. But this sudden interest in such an unfeminine subject worried her parents and

they tried desperately to deter her. A friend of the family, Count Guglielmo LibriCarrucci dalla Sommaja, wrote how Sophie's father confiscated her candles and clothes and removed any heating in order to discourage her. Only a few years later in Britain the young mathematician Mary Somerville would also have her candles confiscated by her father who maintained that "we must put a stop to this, or we shall have Mary in a straitjacket one of these days." In Germain's case, she responded by maintaining a secret cache of candles and wrapping herself in bed-clothes. Libri-Carrucci claimed that the winter nights were so cold that the ink froze in the inkwell, but Sophie continued regardless. She was described by some people as shy and awkward, but undoubtedly she was also immensely determined. Eventually, her parents relented and gave Sophie their blessing. Germain never married and throughout her career her father funded her research and supported her efforts to break into the community of mathematicians. For many years, this was the only encouragement she received. There were no mathematicians in the family who could introduce her to the latest ideas and her tutors refused to take her seriously. In 1794, the Ecole Polytechnique opened in Paris. It was founded as an academy of excellence to train mathematicians and scientists for the nation. This would have been an ideal place for Germain to develop her mathematical skills, except for the fact that it was an institution reserved only for men. Her natural shyness prevented her from confronting the academy's governing body, so instead she resorted to covertly studying at the Ecole by assuming the identity of a former student at the academy, Monsieur Antoine-August Le Blanc. The academy's administration was unaware that the real Monsieur Le Blanc had left Paris, and continued to print lecture notes and problems for him. Germain managed to obtain what was intended for Le Blanc, and each week she would submit answers to the problems under her new pseudonym. Everything was going according to plan until the supervisor of the course, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, could no longer ignore the brilliance of Monsieur Le Blanc's answer sheets. Not only were Monsieur Le Blanc's solutions marvelously ingenious but they showed a remarkable transformation in a student who had previously been notorious for his abysmal mathematical skills. Lagrange, who was one of the finest mathematicians of the nineteenth century, requested a meeting with the reformed student and Germain was forced to reveal her true identity. Lagrange was astonished and pleased to meet the young woman, and became her mentor and friend. At last Sophie Germain had a teacher who could inspire her, and with whom she could be open about her skills and ambitions. Germain grew in confidence and she moved from solving problems in her course work to studying unexplored areas of mathematics. Most importantly, she became interested in number theory and inevitably she came to hear of Fermat's Last Theorem. She worked on the problem for several years, eventually reaching the stage where she believed she had

made an important breakthrough. She needed to discuss her ideas with a fellow number theorist and decided that she would go straight to the top and consult the greatest number theorist in the world, the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. Gauss is widely acknowledged as being the most brilliant mathematician who has ever lived. Germain had first encountered his work through studying his masterpiece Disquisitiones arithmeticae, the most important and wide-ranging treatise since Euclid's Elements. Gauss's work influenced every area of mathematics, but strangely enough he never published anything on Fermat's Last Theorem. In one letter he even displayed contempt for the problem. His friend the German astronomer Heinrich Olbers had written to Gauss encouraging him to compete for a prize which had been offered by the Paris Academy for a solution to Fermat's challenge: "It seems to me, dear Gauss, that you should get busy about this." Two weeks later Gauss replied, "I am very much obliged for your news concerning the Paris prize. But I confess that Fermat's Last Theorem as an isolated proposition has very little interest for me, for I could easily lay down a multitude of such propositions, which one could neither prove nor disprove." Gauss was entitled to his opinion, but Fermat had clearly stated that a proof existed. Historians suspect that, in the past, Gauss had tried and failed to make any impact on the problem, and his response to Olbers was merely a case of intellectual sour grapes. Nonetheless, when he received Germain's letters, he was sufficiently impressed by her breakthrough that he temporarily forgot his ambivalence towards Fermat's Last Theorem. Germain had adopted a new approach to the problem which was far more general than previous strategies. Her immediate goal was not to prove that one particular equation had no solutions, but to say something about several equations. In her letter to Gauss she outlined a calculation which focused on those equations in which n is equal to a particular type of prime number. Prime numbers are those numbers which have no divisors. For example, 11 is a prime number because 11 has no divisors, i.e. nothing will divide into 11 without leaving a remainder (except for 11 and 1). On the other hand, 12 is not a prime number because several numbers will divide into 12, i.e., 2, 3, 4, and 6. Germain was interested in those prime numbers p such that 2p + 1 is also a prime number. Germain's list of primes includes 5, because 11 (2 x 5 + 1) is also prime, but it does not include 13, because 27 (2 x 13 + 1) is not prime. For values of n equal to these Germain primes, she could show that there were probably no solutions to the equation: xn + yn = zn By "probably" Germain meant that it was unlikely that any solutions existed, because if there was a solution, then either x, y, or z would be a multiple of n. This put a very tight

restriction on any solutions. Her colleagues examined her list of primes one by one, trying to prove that x, y, or z could not be a multiple of n, therefore showing that for that particular value of n there could be no solutions. Germain's work on Fermat's Last Theorem was to be her greatest contribution to mathematics, but initially she was not credited for her breakthrough. When Germain wrote to Gauss she was still in her 20s, and, although she had gained a reputation in Paris, she feared that the great man would not take her seriously because of her gender. In order to protect herself Germain resorted once again to her pseudonym, signing her letters as Monsieur Le Blanc. Her fear and respect for Gauss is shown in one of her letters to him: "Unfortunately, the depth of my intellect does not equal the voracity of my appetite, and I feel a kind of temerity in troubling a man of genius when I have no other claim to his attention than an admiration necessarily shared by all his readers." Gauss, unaware of his correspondent's true identity, attempted to put Germain at ease and replied: "I am delighted that arithmetic has found in you so able a friend." Germain's contribution would have been forever wrongly attributed to the mysterious Monsieur Le Blanc were it not for the Emperor Napoleon. In 1806, Napoleon was invading Prussia and the French army was storming through one German city after another. Germain feared that the fate that befell Archimedes might also take the life of her other great hero Gauss, so she sent a message to her friend, General Joseph-Marie Pernety, asking that he guarantee Gauss's safety. The general was not a scientist, but even he was aware of the world's greatest mathematician, and, as requested, he took special care of Gauss, explaining to him that he owed his life to Mademoiselle Germain. Gauss was grateful but surprised, for he had never heard of Sophie Germain. The game was up. In Germain's next letter to Gauss she reluctantly revealed her true identity. Far from being angry at the deception, Gauss wrote back to her with delight: But how to describe to you my admiration and astonishment at seeing my esteemed correspondent Monsieur Le Blanc metamorphose himself into this illustrious personage who gives such a brilliant example of what I would find it difficult to believe. A taste for the abstract sciences in general and above all the mysteries of numbers is excessively rare: one is not astonished at it: the enchanting charms of this sublime science reveal only to those who have the courage to go deeply into it. But when a person of the sex which, according to our customs and prejudices, must encounter infinitely more difficulties than men to familiarize herself with these thorny researches, succeeds nevertheless in surmounting these obstacles and penetrating the most obscure parts of them, then without doubt she must have the noblest courage, quite extraordinary talents and superior genius. Sophie Germain's correspondence with Carl Gauss inspired much of her subsequent work but, in 1808, the relationship ended abruptly. Gauss had been appointed Professor of Astronomy at the University of Göttingen, his interest shifted from number theory to more applied mathematics, and he no longer bothered to return Germain's letters. Without

her mentor, her confidence began to wane and within a year she abandoned pure mathematics. Although she made no further contributions to proving Fermat's Last Theorem, others were to build on her work. She had offered hope that those equations in which n equals a Germain prime could be tackled, however the remaining values of n remained intractable. After Fermat, Germain embarked on an eventful career as a physicist, a discipline in which she would again excel only to be confronted by the prejudices of the establishment. Her most important contribution to the subject was "Memoir on the Vibrations of Elastic Plates," a brilliantly insightful paper which was to lay the foundations for the modern theory of elasticity. As a result of this research and her work on Fermat's Last Theorem, she received a medal from the Institut de France and became the first woman, who was not a wife of a member, to attend lectures at the Academy of Sciences. Then, towards the end of her life, she re-established her relationship with Carl Gauss, who convinced the University of Göttingen to award her an honorary degree. Tragically, before the university could bestow the honor upon her, Sophie Germain died of breast cancer. H.J. Mozans, an historian and author of Women in Science, said of Germain: All things considered, she was probably the most profoundly intellectual woman that France has ever produced. And yet, strange as it may seem, when the state official came to make out her death certificate, he designated her as a "rentière-annuitant" (a single woman with no profession) -- not as a "mathématicienne." Nor is this all. When the Eiffel Tower was erected, there was inscribed on this lofty structure the names of seventy-two savants. But one will not find in this list the name of that daughter of genius, whose researches contributed so much toward establishing the theory of the elasticity of metals -- Sophie Germain. Was she excluded from this list for the same reason she was ineligible for membership in the French Academy -- because she was a woman? If such, indeed, was the case, more is the shame for those who were responsible for such ingratitude toward one who had deserved so well of science, and who by her achievements had won an enviable place in the hall of fame.

Theater Review:

A Common Heart and Uncommon Brain

By Bruce Weber Published: May 24, 2000 Have you noticed how many well-educated characters are holding forth on New York stages? The physicists of ''Copenhagen,'' the accomplished playwright of ''The Real Thing,'' the literati of ''The Designated Mourner'' -- all are challenging, and charming, audiences with the force of intellect. Lyman Felt, the self-justifying bigamist of ''The Ride Down Mount Morgan,'' makes his case with the well-reasoned eloquence of a philosopher, and even in a romantic comedy like ''Dirty Blonde,'' the lead male character is a film historian. Forrest Gumpism may still be alive in the land, but one thing this spate of excellent plays reminds us is that learning is desirable, not least because it enriches the emotions. In case you've forgotten, intellectuals are people too. Happily, this trend is being perpetuated with ''Proof,'' an exhilarating and assured new play by David Auburn that turns the esoteric world of higher mathematics literally into a back porch drama, one that is as accessible and compelling as a detective story. The play, which opened yesterday at the Manhattan Theater Club, is fundamentally a mystery about the authorship of a particularly important proof, a mystery that is solved in the end; it is also, however, about the unravelable enigma of genius, and the toll it can take on those who are beset with it, aspire to it or merely live in its vicinity. In that service, the play takes great pains to depict the study of mathematics as a painful joy, not as the geek-making obsession of stereotype, but as human labor, both ennobling and humbling, by people who, like musicians or painters (or playwrights), can envision an elusive beauty in the universe and are therefore both enlivened by its pursuit and daunted by the commitment. It does this not by showing them at work but by showing them trying to live and cope when they can't, won't or simply aren't, and in so doing makes the argument that mathematics is a business for the common heart as well as the uncommon brain. As directed by Daniel Sullivan and performed by an exemplary cast, ''Proof'' has the pace of a psychological thriller, and if its resolution (''lumpy'' rather than elegant, to use a word that one character uses to describe the titular proof) tilts toward the sentimental, the characters deserve to be hopeful. As one woman exiting the theater ahead of me said to her companion, ''It's like 'Copenhagen' with a happy ending,'' an oversimplified review, perhaps, but in spirit, close enough. At the center of the play is Catherine, a young woman who is about to bury her father, a once-great mathematician at the University of Chicago whose final years were beset by

madness. Played with stirring unsettledness by Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine has inherited her father's handwriting, his humor and, to an indeterminate degree, both his genius and illness. ''A taste for the mysteries of numbers is excessively rare,'' the German mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss wrote to Sophie Germain, a gifted young French woman, some 200 years ago. Catherine has the letter memorized. Its acknowledgment that such a predilection is particularly rare in women is a source of pride and inspiration to her, but it makes her fearful as well; she has witnessed firsthand the jumble that mathematics can make of a working brain. Having quit her own studies years earlier to care for her father, she is, as we see her first on the eve of the funeral -- and her 25th birthday -- at the intersection of a haunting past and blank future. Drinking cheap champagne from the bottle on the back porch of the house she now lives in alone -- to anyone who knows Chicago, John Lee Beatty's staunch, brick set will locate the play precisely -- she is disheveled, bitter, immobilized by depression. Ms. Parker is immediately vivid as Catherine, a woman whose sense of defeat is both circumstantial and self-imposed, someone who is aware she has both brain power and sex appeal in spades but trusts neither enough to exhibit them. She is herself only with her father (Larry Bryggman), who appears intermittently in both flashbacks and dreams, dramatically risky scenes that are skillfully integrated into the narrative by Mr. Auburn and performed by Mr. Bryggman and Ms. Parker with the sad -and occasionally droll -- resignation of people holding onto a lifeline of mutual understanding. Eloquently snappish in her self-pity, Catherine is, with everyone else, an intimidating presence, except that her body language, in Ms. Parker's performance, can't help but be a fetching plea for salvation. Her inner conflict determinedly keeps at bay her wellmeaning sister, Claire, a nonmathematician (she didn't get the family's more troublesome genes) who, as played with a fine blend of anger and concern by Johanna Day, is understandably exasperated by her sister's obstinate antics and wants to sell the house and bring Catherine back with her to New York where she won't be alone with her demons. Fortunately for Catherine, she is being courted, shyly but insistently, by Hal Dobbs (Ben Shenkman), a former student of her father's who has been going through the great man's notebooks hoping to find unpublished revelations that may be masked by deranged scribbling. Perhaps conditioned by his chosen profession, Hal doesn't accede to rejection readily, or maybe he doesn't recognize it; he is moved by Catherine as much as he was by her father. In a role written both to acknowledge and debunk the stereotype of the socially inept math nerd, Mr. Shenkman wonderfully evokes the hesitant charm of a young man whose self-awareness tells him that he is more than brainy but less than suave. Do Catherine and Hal belong together? That, pardon the expression, is a complex equation for any two people to solve. As their mutual affection and trust waxes and wanes over the course of an autumn weekend, the issue of genius -- who has it and what

does it portend? -- turns out to be the elusive variable. But ultimately this is emotional math, the sort that everyone and no one understands. Without any baffling erudition -- if you know what a prime number is, there won't be a single line of dialogue you find perplexing -- the play presents mathematicians as both blessed and bedeviled by the gift for abstraction that ties them achingly to one another and separates them, also achingly, from concrete-minded folks like you and me. And perhaps most satisfying of all, it does so without a moment of meanness. ''Proof'' reaches into remote cerebral terrain and finds -- guess what? -- good people. Intelligence a virtue? Q.E.D. PROOF By David Auburn; directed by Daniel Sullivan; sets by John Lee Beatty; costumes by Jess Goldstein; lighting by Pat Collins; sound by John Gromada; production stage manager, James Harker; production manager, Michael R. Moody; associate artistic director, Michael Bush; general manager, Harold Wolpert. Presented by Manhattan Theater Club, Lynne Meadow, artistic director; Barry Grove, executive director. At City Center, Stage 1, 131 West 55th Street, Manhattan. WITH: Larry Bryggman (Robert), Mary-Louise Parker (Catherine), Ben Shenkman (Hal) and Johanna Day (Claire). 0(PLAY)&pdate=20000524&byline=By%20BRUCE%20WEBER&id=1077011431186

Upcoming Movie

a film adaptation of "Proof"

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Auburn, "Proof" follows a devoted daughter (Paltrow) who comes to terms with the death of her father (Hopkins) a brilliant mathematician whose genius was crippled by mental insanity -- and is forced to face her own long-harbored fears and emotions. She adjusts to his death with the help of one of her father's former mathematical students (Gyllenhaal) who searches through her father's notebooks in the hope of discovering a bit of his old brilliance. While coming to terms with the possibility that his genius, which she has inherited, may come at a painful price, her estranged sister (Davis) arrives to help settle their father's affairs. Genres: Drama Running Time: MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content, language and drug references. Distributor: Miramax Films Cast and Credits Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis, Gary Houston Directed by: John Madden Produced by: John N Hart, Jeffrey Sharp, Alison Owen

A Mathematician's Apology

by G.H. Hardy

As David Auburn was writing Proof, he ran across G.H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology (Cambridge University Press, 1967). A layman's guide to the world of mathematics, the book provides insight into the creativity of mathematicians. Like artists, mathematicians often work in isolation, and they hold themselves and their work up to high aesthetic standards. They find beauty in patterns while searching for truth. The following passages are excerpts from Hardy's book. A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas. A painter makes patterns with shapes and colors, a poet with words.... A mathematician on the other hand, has no material to work with but ideas, so his patterns are likely to last longer, since ideas wear less with time than with words. In [proofs] there is a very high degree of unexpectedness, combined with inevitability and economy. The arguments take so odd and surprising a form; the weapons used seem so childishly simple when compared with the far-reaching results; but there is no escape from the conclusions. ...A mathematical proof should resemble a simple and clear-cut constellation, not a scattered cluster in the Milky Way.... I have never done anything `useful.' No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world. I have helped to train other mathematicians, but mathematicians of the same kind as myself, and their work has been, so far at any rate as I have helped them to do it, as useless as my own. Judged by all practical standards, the value of my mathematical life is nil; and outside mathematics it is trivial anyhow. I have just one chance of escaping a verdict of complete triviality, that I may be judged to have created something worth creating. And that I have created something is undeniable: the question is about its value.... The case for my life, then, or for that of any one else who has been a mathematician in the same sense in which I have been one, is this: that I have added something to knowledge, and helped others to add more; and that these somethings have a value which differs in degree only, and not in kind, from that of the creations of the great mathematicians, or of any of the other artists, great or small, who have left some kind of material behind them. (From SCR's January 2003 SubSCRiber Newsletter)

A Mathematical Glossary

Prime number A prime number is a natural number that has no integer factors other than itself and 1. The smallest prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41. An integer is a real number that does not include a fractional part. The natural numbers are also called positive integers, and the integers smaller than zero are called negative integers. ..., -6, -5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, ... Imaginary number An imaginary number is the form ni, where n is a real number that is being multiplied by the imaginary number i, and i is defined by the equation i2 = -1. Since the product of any two real numbers with the same sign will be positive (or zero), there is no way that you can find any real number that, when multiplied by itself, will give you a negative number. Therefore, the imaginary numbers need to be introduced to provide solutions for equations that require taking the square roots of negative numbers. Imaginary numbers are needed to describe certain equations in some branches of physics, such as quantum mechanics. However, any measurable quantity, such as energy, momentum, or length, will always be represented by a real number. Game theory This area of mathematics is applied to fields such as economics and military strategy in which conflicting interests work against each other based on potential gains and losses. Algabraic geometry Algebra is the study of the properties of operations carried out on sets of numbers. Algebra is a generalization of arithmetic in which symbols, usually letters, are used to stand for numbers. The structure of algebra is based upon axioms (or postulates), which are statements that are assumed to be true. The axioms are then used to prove theorems about the properties of operations on numbers. Euclidian geometry describes the geometry of our everyday world. One postulate of Euclidian geometry describes the behavior of parallel lines and says that if two parallel lines were extended forever, they would never intersect. This postulate seems intuitively clear, but nobody has been able to prove it after several centuries of trying. Since we cannot travel to infinity to verify that the two seemingly parallel lines never intersect, we cannot tell whether this postulate really is satisfied in our universe. Some mathematicians decided to investigate what would happen to geometry if they changed the parallel postulate. They found that they were able to prove theorems in their new type of geometry. These theorems were consistent because no two theorems contradicted each other, but the geometry that resulted was different from the geometry

developed by Euclid. Non-Euclidian geometries play an important role in the development of relativity theory. They are also important because they shed light on the nature of logical systems. Algebraic geometry is the branch of mathematics that uses the tools of both geometry and algebra to address questions such as the famous Fermat's Last Theorem. Fermat's Last Theorem states that there is no solution for the equation an + bn = cn where a,b,c and n are all positive integers, and n >2 The theorem acquired its name because Fermat mentioned the theorem and claimed to have discovered a proof of it, but did not have space to write it down. Nobody has ever discovered a counter-example, but it has turned out to be very difficult to prove this theorem. Over the years several proofs have been proposed, but closer analysis has revealed they have flaws. Prior to being proved, this statement should more properly be called a conjecture rather than a theorem. In 1993 Andrew Wiles proposed a proof, which started a worldwide effort to verify that the proof was correct. Sophie Germain This 18th century French mathematician attended school and wrote proofs under a man's name, Monsieur Le Blanc, because women were not regarded as scholars at that time. One of her most notable accomplishments is the discovery of a new set of prime numbers which are now known as Germain primes. Germain primes The next number member of this set of primes discovered by Sophie Germain can be found by doubling the previous prime and adding one. For example, 2 is prime, 2 double equals four, plus one equals five, which is also a prime. Proof A proof is a sequence of statements that show a particular theorem to be true. In the course of a proof it is permissible to use only axioms (postulates) or theorems that have been previously proved. According to Hardy (1999, pp. 15-16), "all physicists, and a good many quite respectable mathematicians, are contemptuous about proof. I have heard Professor Eddington, for example, maintain that proof, as pure mathematicians understand it, is really quite uninteresting and unimportant, and that no one who is really certain that he has found something good should waste his time looking for proof.... [This opinion], with which I am sure that almost all physicists agree at the bottom of their hearts, is one to which a mathematician ought to have some reply." To prove Hardy's assertion, Feynman is reported to have commented, "A great deal more is known than has been proved" (Derbyshire 2004, p. 291).

There is some debate among mathematicians as to just what constitutes a proof. The fourcolor theorem is an example of this debate, since its "proof" relies on an exhaustive computer testing of many individual cases which cannot be verified "by hand." While many mathematicians regard computer-assisted proofs as valid, some purists do not. Infinity Infinity represents a limitless quantity. It would take you forever to count an infinite number of objects. There is an infinite number of numbers. The opposite of infinite is finite. Lithium This powerful medication is often used in the treatment of manic depression. Elliptical curves A component of algebraic geometry, this field is connected to several different areas, including number theory. Number theory Number theory is the study of properties of the natural numbers. One aspect of number theory focuses on prime numbers. For example, it can be easily proven that there are an infinite number of prime numbers. Suppose, for example, that p was the largest prime number. Then, form a new number equal to one plus the product of all the prime numbers from 2 up to p. This number will not be divisible by any of these prime numbers (and, therefore, not by any composite number formed by multiplying these primes together) and will therefore be prime. This contradicts the assumption that p is the largest prime number. There are still unsolved problems involving the frequency of occurrence of prime numbers. The introduction of computers has made it possible to verify that a proposition works for very large numbers, but no computer can count all the way to infinity so the computer is no substitute for a formal proof if you need to know that a theorem is always true. Gauss Carl Freidrich Gauss (1777 to 1855) was a German mathematician and astronomer who studied errors of measurement (so the normal curve is sometimes called the Gaussian error curve); developed a way to contruct a 17-sided regular polygon with geometric construction; developed a law that says the electric flux over a closed surface is proportional to the charge inside the surface (this law is now included as one of Maxwell's equations); and studied the theory of complex numbers. The Gauss-Jordan Elimination is a method for solving a system of linear equations.

Mathematical Quotes

"We arrive at truth, not by reason only, but also by the heart." Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) "Mathematics is often erroneously referred to as the science of common sense. Actually, it may transcend common sense and go beyond either imagination or intuition. It has become a very strange and perhaps frightening subject from the ordinary point of view, but anyone who penetrates into it will find a veritable fairyland, a fairyland which is strange, but makes sense, if not common sense." E. and Newman, J. Kasner. Mathematics and the Imagination, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1940. "Mathematics is not a careful march down a well cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where explorers often get lost." W. S. Anglin

Dictionary Definitions ­ Main Entry: proof

Pronunciation: 'prüf Function: noun Etymology: Middle English, alteration of preove, from Old French preuve, from Late Latin proba, from Latin probare to prove -- more at PROVE 1. a: the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact b: the process or an instance of establishing the validity of a statement especially by derivation from other statements in accordance with principles of reasoning 2. obsolete : EXPERIENCE 3. something that induces certainty or establishes validity 4. archaic : the quality or state of having been tested or tried; especially : unyielding hardness 5. evidence operating to determine the finding or judgment of a tribunal 6. a: plural proofs or proof : a copy (as of typeset text) made for examination or correction b: a test impression of an engraving, etching, or lithograph c: a coin that is struck from a highly-polished die on a polished planchet, is not intended for circulation, and sometimes differs in metallic content from coins of identical design struck for circulation d: a test photographic print made from a negative 7. a test applied to articles or substances to determine whether they are of standard or satisfactory quality 8. a: the minimum alcoholic strength of proof spirit b : strength with reference to the standard for proof spirit; specifically: alcoholic strength indicated by a number that is twice the percent by volume of alcohol present <whiskey of 90 proof is 45% alcohol> proof

A. Illustration of Forms. () 3 preoue, 4 proeue, prieve, 4-5 pref, preef, 4-6 prefe, preve, Sc. preiff, 5 proef, preff(e, preeff, preyf, prewe, 5-6 prief(e, preif, 6 preife, pryef, preeue, pryve, Sc. prieff; 8-9 arch. prief, dial. preef, prief, preif. () 4-5 prooff, 4-5 prof, proff, Sc. pruf(f, 4-6 proue, profe, Sc. prowe, 5-6 proufe, ffe, prove, prooue, 5-7 proofe, proffe, Sc. prufe, 6 prooffe, 7 Sc. pruife, 5- proof. (Sc. pruife, etc. (Y, ø).) pl. proofs; also 4-7 proues, 5 prouves, 5-7 proves, 6-7 prooves. B. Signification. I. From PROVE v. in the sense of making good, or showing to be true.

1. a. That which makes good or proves a statement; evidence sufficient (or contributing) to establish a fact or produce belief in the certainty of something. to make proof: to have weight as evidence (obs.). b. Law. (generally) Evidence such as determines the judgement of a tribunal. Also spec. (a) A written document or documents so attested as to form legal evidence. (b) A written statement of what a witness is prepared to swear to. (c) The evidence which has been given in a particular case, and entered on the court records. (See also 3.) c. A person who gives evidence; a witness: = EVIDENCE n. 7. Obs. (After 1500 only Sc.) 2. The action, process, or fact of proving, or establishing the truth of, a statement; the action of evidence in convincing the mind; demonstration. 3. Sc. Law. Evidence given before a judge, or a commissioner representing him, upon a record or an issue framed in pleading; the taking of such evidence by a judge in order to a trial; hence, trial before a judge instead of by a jury. This distinctive development of sense has gradually taken place since the introduction of trial by jury into Scotland in 1815. II. From PROVE v. in the sense of trying or testing. 4. a. The action or an act of testing or making trial of anything, or the condition of being tried; test, trial, experiment; examination, probation; assay. Often in phrases to bring, put, set, etc. (something) in, on, to (the, a) proof. b. Arith. An operation serving to test or check the correctness of an arithmetical calculation. (Sometimes understood as in sense 2.) 5. The action or fact of passing through or having experience of something; also, knowledge derived from this; experience. Obs. 6. A trial, attempt, essay, endeavour. Obs. 7. That which anything proves or turns out to be; the issue, result, effect, fulfilment; esp. in phrase to come to proof. Obs. 8. esp. The fact, condition, or quality of proving good, turning out well, or producing good results; thriving; good condition, good quality; goodness, substance. Now only dial. 9. a. The testing of cannon or small fire-arms by firing a heavy charge, or by hydraulic pressure. proof of (gun) powder, the testing of the propulsive force of gunpowder. b. A place for testing fire-arms or explosives. 10. a. The condition of having successfully stood a test, or the capability of doing so;

proved or tested power; orig. of armour and arms, whence transf. and fig.: impenetrability, invulnerability. arch. Often in phrase armour (etc.) of proof: cf. PROOF a. 1; at the proof, so as to be proof; to the proof, to the utmost, in the highest degree. proof of lead or shot (cf. PROOF a. 1), the quality of being proof against leaden bullets. b. Proof armour. Hist. c. The process of stiffening hats and rendering them waterproof. Cf. PROOF v. 2. 11. a. The standard of strength of distilled alcoholic liquors (or of vinegar); now, the strength of a mixture of alcohol and water having a specific gravity of 0·91984, and containing 0·495 of its weight, or 0·5727 of its volume, of absolute alcohol. Also transf. Spirit of this strength. b. In sugar-boiling: The degree of concentration at which the syrup will successfully crystallize. c. The aeration of dough by leaven before baking. Cf. PROVE v. 1g. III. That which is produced as a test; a means or instrument for testing. 12. Typog. A trial or preliminary impression taken from composed type, in which typographical errors may be corrected, and alterations and additions made. Applied esp. to the first proof; a second or later one being called a revise: see REVISE n. 3; see also quot. 1842. 13. a. Engraving. Originally, An impression taken by the engraver from an engraved plate, stone, or block, to examine its state during the progress of his work; now applied to each of a limited or arbitrary number of careful impressions made from the finished plate before the printing of the ordinary issue, and usually before the inscription is added (in full, proof before letter(s)). artist's or engraver's proof, a proof taken for examination or alteration by the artist or engraver; signed proof, an early proof signed by the artist. letter or lettered proof, a proof with the signatures of the artist and engraver, and the inscription. marked, remarque, touched, trial, wax proof: see these words. b. Photogr. A first or trial print taken from a plate; also used as equivalent to PRINT (n. 13). 14. A coin or medal struck as a test of the die (obs.); also, one of a limited number of early impressions of coins struck as specimens. These often have their edges left plain and not milled; they may also be executed in a metal different from that used for the actual coin. 15. An instrument, vessel, or the like for testing. a. A surgeon's probe. Obs. rare0. (Perhaps only an etymologizing invention of Cotgrave.) b. (a) A test-tube. (b) An apparatus for testing the strength of gunpowder. 16. Typog. A definite number of ems placed in the composing-stick as a pattern of the length of the line. Obs.

[The width of pages is expressed according to the number of `ems'. Encycl. Brit. 1888.] 17. Bookbinding. The rough uncut edges of the shorter or narrower leaves of a book, left in trimming it to show that it has not been cut down. IV. 18. attrib. and Comb. a. General Combs. in senses 1-4, as proof needle, object, paper, passage, patch, piece, test, text; proof-producing, proof-proof adjs.; in sense 4, as proof-test vb.; in sense 9, as proof-butts, -charge, -ground, -house, -master, -mortar (MORTAR n.1), -sleigh; in senses 12-14, as proof coin, copy, proof-correct vb., to correct in proof, proofcorrecting, -correction, -corrector, -galley, impression, -plate (PLATE n. 6b), print, printer, -puller, -pulling, set, stage, state. b. Special Combs.: proof-arm v. nonce-wd. [?back-formation from proof armour], trans. to arm in or as in armour of proof; proof-favour, favour or goodwill strong as armour of proof; proof-gallon, a gallon of proof-spirit; proof-glass, a deep cylindrical glass for holding liquids while under test; proof-leaf, = PROOF-SHEET; also, the sheet of paper by means of which coloured designs are transferred from the engraved plate to the biscuit in pottery-making; proof-letter, a letter cast to test the accuracy of the typemould; proof load Mech., a load which a structure must be able to bear without exceeding specified limits of deformation; loosely, proof stress; proof-man (Sc.), one whose profession is to estimate the content of corn-stacks; proof-mark, (a) in testing powder, a mark made on the ribbon by which the recoil is measured, showing the strength of powder of the standard quality (obs.); (b) a mark impressed on a fire-arm to show that it has passed the test; proof-plane, a small flat or disk-shaped conductor fixed on an insulating handle, used in measuring the electrification of any body; proof-plug: see quot.; proof-press, a press or machine used for taking proofs of type; proof-read v. trans., to read (printer's proofs) and mark errors for correction; hence proof-read ppl. a.; proof-reader, one whose business is to read through printer's proofs and mark errors for correction; = READER 2b; so proof-reading vbl. n. and ppl. a.; proof-slip Typog. = PROOF-SHEET; proof-sphere: see quot.; proof-staff, a metal straight-edge for testing or adjusting the ordinary wooden instrument (Knight Dict. Mech. 1875); proof-stick, a rod by means of which a sample of the contents of a vacuum sugar-boiler may be taken without admitting air; proof strain Mech., the strain produced by the proof stress; loosely, proof stress; proof strength, = sense 11; proof stress Mech., the stress required to produce a specified permanent deformation of a material or structure; proof theory (see quot. 1942); hence proof-theoretic a., of or pertaining to proof theory; prooftheoretically adv., in a proof-theoretic manner; proof timber: see quot.; proof vinegar, vinegar of standard strength. -- proof

( P ) Pronunciation Key (prf) n. 1. The evidence or argument that compels the mind to accept an assertion as true.

2. a. The validation of a proposition by application of specified rules, as of induction or deduction, to assumptions, axioms, and sequentially derived conclusions. b. A statement or argument used in such a validation. 3. a. Convincing or persuasive demonstration: was asked for proof of his identity; an employment history that was proof of her dependability. b. The state of being convinced or persuaded by consideration of evidence. 4. Determination of the quality of something by testing; trial: put one's beliefs to the proof. 5. Law. The result or effect of evidence; the establishment or denial of a fact by evidence. 6. The alcoholic strength of a liquor, expressed by a number that is twice the percentage by volume of alcohol present. 7. Printing. a. A trial sheet of printed material that is made to be checked and corrected. Also called proof sheet. b. A trial impression of a plate, stone, or block taken at any of various stages in engraving. 8. a. A trial photographic print. b. Any of a limited number of newly minted coins or medals struck as specimens and for collectors from a new die on a polished planchet. 9. Archaic. Proven impenetrability: "I was clothed in Armor of proof" (John Bunyan).


Theatre Study Guide: Proof, a play by David Auburn

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