To Infinity and Beyond…

Set theory was derived and extended by a tormented German genius, the mathematician Georg Cantor, who died in a sanatorium in 1918. Cantor spent his life trying to understand infinity. He felt that his endeavor got him closer to God, who he believed held the key to the deep truths about infinity he was after.  Cantor derived some immensely important facts in pure mathematics: he discovered that there are various levels of infinity, and he even learned how to carry out arithmetical operations on infinite quantities.

It’s said Cantor had such a deeply perceptive mind that he could, in a sense, “see” infinity. He was the first mathematician in history to truly elucidate the deep properties of the infinite, all on his own, to a surprisingly great extent. He was able to demonstrate that not all infinite quantities are equally large. For example, the number of integers, though certainly infinite, is smaller than the number of all the numbers found on the real number line…It is the far more numerous irrational numbers that give the real number line its “substance” or density.

Cantor was often harassed by less gifted mathematicians who found his work too bizarre to believe. Their constant attacks on him contributed to his mental illness. He suffered from recurring bouts of depression, which sometimes landed him in a mental institution where he would spend months until he felt better and was released. This cycle of productive and frenzied work under adverse conditions, alternating with periods of hospitalization and rest, characterized much of his life.

Today we know that Cantor’s work was perfectly correct and extremely innovative, and it has opened up important new ways of thinking about the infinite.

Why Science Does Not Disprove God
Why Science Does Not Disprove God
Amir D. Aczel
mathetician and science writer

 


Georg Cantor
Georg Cantor
1845-1918

Georg Cantor was a German mathematician who revolutionized mathematics through his discovery and construction of a hierarchy of infinite mathematical sets. Although Cantor’s views were opposed by many of his contemporaries, he refused to bow down to their criticism and continued his research. To Cantor, his mathematical views were intrinsically linked to their philosophical and theological implications – he identified the Absolute Infinite with God, and he believed God communicated some of his mathematical discoveries to him. Cantor laid the foundation for Modern Mathematics. Most of his works have survived to date.

 

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