Papers relate to Pólya's research and teaching in mathematics and include professional and personal correspondence with mathematicians
worldwide, 1910-1984; course materials including lecture notes; mathematical research notebooks dating from 1917 to 1960;
manuscripts including those from his published works
How to Solve It,
Mathematical Discovery, and
Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning; ephemera; reprints; and photographs.
Hungarian mathematician George Pólya was educated at the University of Budapest and the University of Paris, and taught at
the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich from 1914 to 1940. His students included future Stanford physics professors
Felix Bloch and Hans Staub. In 1942 he joined Stanford's Department of Mathematics, whose chairman, Gábor Szegö, had been
a fellow student in Hungary. He continued to teach until his 90th birthday in 1977. Following early research on probability,
Pólya turned to the difficult area of the theory of functions of a complex variable. He was also interested in geometry and
geometrical methods. His study of symmetry in the plane was studied and applied by the Dutch artist M.C. Escher. Pólya's later
work on the principles of heuristics and problem solving is credited with providing a foundation for the application of computers
to artificial intelligence. In addition to his own research and teaching, Pólya was concerned with methods of teaching mathematics
and mathematics teachers. He is considered the father of the current trend toward emphasizing problem solving in mathematical
teaching. His very successful book
How to Solve It has been translated into fifteen languages and is still used widely. He died in 1985.
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Materials in Subseries 8 of accession 1989-132 are restricted until January 1, 2039. Otherwise the collection is open for
research; materials must be requested at least 48 hours in advance of intended use.