A Mathematician's Apology

"There are many highly respected motives which may lead men
to prosecute research, but three which are much more important
than the rest. The first (without which the rest must come to
nothing) is intellectual curiosity, desire to know the truth. Then,
professional pride, anxiety to be satisfied with one’s performance,
the shame that overcomes any self-respecting craftsman when his
work is unworthy of his talent. Finally, ambition, desire for
reputation, and the position, even the power or the money, which
it brings. It may be fine to feel, when you have done your work,
that you have added to the happiness or alleviated the sufferings
of others, but that will not be why you did it. So if a mathematician,
or a chemist, or even a physiologist, were to tell me that the
driving force in his work had been the desired to benefit
humanity, then I should not believe him (nor should I think the
better of him if I did). His dominant motives have been those
which I have stated, and in which, surely, there is nothing of
which any decent man need be ashamed."

-G. H. Hardy
Published at: 03/08/2012