(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
, and geometry
. However, Pólya is
best known for his writing
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
. 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.