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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

Round and Round

To the Editors:

Regarding Michael Corballis's article "The Uniqueness of Human Recursive Thinking" (May-June), in his Mathematician's Miscellany, the distinguished British mathematician J. E. Littlewood tells the following anecdote: "I wrote a paper for the Comptes Rendus which Prof. M. Riesz translated into French for me. At the end there were three footnotes. The first read (in French) 'I am greatly indebted to Prof. Riesz for translating the present paper.' The second read 'I am indebted to Prof. Riesz for translating the preceding footnote.' The third read 'I am indebted to Prof. Riesz for translating the preceding footnote,' with a suggestion of recursiveness. Actually I stop legitimately at number 3: However little French I know I am capable of copying a French sentence."

Paul R. Chernoff
Department of Mathematics
University of California, Berkeley

 

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