Award for biography of mathematician bigrap

A BIOGRAPHY of a charismatic and eccentric mathematician who lived out of two suitcases for much of his life has won the most prestigious prize in science book publishing.

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman is the story of Paul Erdos, a charming and impish philosopher-scientist who saw mathematics as a way of searching for lasting beauty and ultimate truth.

Last night, Hoffman received the 1999 Rhone-Poulence Prize for Science Books - and with it a cheque for pounds 10,000 - at a presentation dinner held at the Science Museum in London.

Fay Weldon, who chaired the panel of judges, said the book was "an unconventional and lively biography of a mathematician, which at the same time makes mathematics sing a little".

Weldon said that Hoffman, who met Erdos in 1986 and interviewed him repeatedly over the last 10 years of his life, had written a book that was "absorbing, witty and illuminating".

The peripatetic Erdos lived most of his life out of two suitcases, and frequently criss-crossed four continents in search of the answer to the most difficult mathematical problems of our age.

The Hungarian emigre had no interest in food, sex, companionship, art or indeed any of the things that are usually indispensable to life, said the writer and psychologist Oliver Sacks.

"[Hoffman] gives us a vivid and strangely moving portrait of this singular creature - one that brings out not only Erdos's genius and his oddness, but his warmth and sense of fun, the joyfulness of his strange life," said Sacks.

This year's Rhone-Poulence prize - the science community's answer to the Booker - had 93 entries with a shortlist of six. The others on the list were:

t How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker, an attempt to explain the complex chemistry of the human brain;

t Mapping the Mind, by Rita Carter, a journey into the brain with the help of the latest scanning technology;

t One Renegade Cell, by Robert Weinberg, a cancer specialist's description of research into the disease;

t Consilience, by Edward O Wilson, who attempts to draw together the various laws of nature into a unified whole;

t A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar, which describes the life and mind of John Nash, whose contribution to game theory has revolutionised the field of economics.

It is the 11th year of the Prize for Science Books, which was jointly established by the Royal Society, the Royal Institution, the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Science Museum to further public understanding of science.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Extras
indybest
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Communications Executive

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness