George Pólya (b. 13 Dec 1887, d. 7 Sep 1985) was a mathematician who contributed to a wide range of fields during his long lifetime, including real and complex analysis, probability, combinatorics, number theory, and geometry. However, Pólya is best known for his writing and teaching about the heuristics of problem solving. In his books How to Solve It and Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning he outlines very practical steps one can take to solve a hard problem. His most widely quoted piece of advice is
"If you cannot solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you cannot solve: find it."

Pólya was born in Budapest, Hungary and educated at the University of Budapest. He began studying philosophy, taking mathematics and physics classes on the advice of his supervisor. In an interview1 he said that he switched because, "I thought I am not good enough for physics and too good for philosophy. Mathematics is in between." He graduated with a Ph.D. in mathematics and a minor in physics in 1912. He taught and did research at the University of Göttingen, Univerisity of Paris, and the Swiss Federation of Technology in Zurich. In 1940 he moved to the United States, settling down at Stanford University after two years at Brown University.

1 Mathematical People, D.J. Albers and G.L. Alexanderson, eds., Birkhauser Boston, Cambridge, MA, USA, 1985.

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