N is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdös

The film documents the life of one of most brilliant and prolific mathematician, Paul Erdös and is filmed over a four-year period in four countries between 1988 and 1991 .

The film focuses on the life of Erdös who was born in Hungary in 1913 and was a man without any job, or home. This genius gained everything at a young age and yet led a rich life without the traditional trappings of success. He had co-authored over 1,500 papers. At the age of 83 he would be attending numerous meetings on Math, continually working on problems. He died while attending such a meeting in Warsaw, Poland on September 20, 1996.

The structure of N is a Number is based on Erdös’s 50 years of perpetual wandering, “like a bumblebee,” He would carry news and mathematical information from one university to another. Erdös managed to establish himself and construct his reputation as a serious mathematician at the young age of 20. It was at this age when he devised a more elegant proof for Chebyshev’s theorem. As per this theorem there is always a prime number between any number and its double. This earned him the reputation of a great mathematician.

He was also known for his eccentric personality. He was a regular user of methamphetamine, which he rarely publicly admitted for fear of proliferating the idea that drug use is acceptable. His friends made a bet with him for $500 that he couldn’t quit meth for 30 days, he won the bet, but later remarked that they had set the progress of mathematics back a month :)

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