Thursday, February 03, 2005


The Way I Remember It by Walter Rudin is a wonderful little book. I read a chunk of it on my way home, after finishing the Mencken collection, and I think I may read some more of it when I go home tonight.

Let me explain first who Rudin is, and why I would want to pick up his memoir. Rudin is an accomplished and fairly famous analyst, and is the author of a few classic texts in the field. The best known of these is probably Principles of Mathematical Analysis, a book which covers material that might be taught in a typical upper division undergraduate math course with the title Advanced Calculus or Analysis: the rigorous development of the basic concepts of the continuum, and of differential and integral calculus. Rudin's mathematical writing style is distinctive: it is clear, but it is terse. The terseness, together with the hiqh quality, is probably what most people remember about the book; whether they remember it with fondness or with fear, people who have read the book do remember Rudin's brevity. I certainly remember it, though (perhaps surprisingly) I don't own my own copy -- my undergrad course was taught from Protter and Morrey's text, with Rudin as a backup reference. I do have a copy of Rudin's Real and Complex Analysis, though, a much-treasured reference that I received as a gift a few years ago; and the writing there has the same quality.

Rudin grew up in Austria, but his family fled when the Nazis came. You can find this, and a little of his family's history, in the book description on Amazon. What you won't find in that information is how lucky his escape through France was; nor will you find that he spent time as a radio operator in the British service; nor will you find out about his unconventional undergraduate career at Duke.

It's a short, tightly-written, interesting book; and I'm glad and impressed to see that Rudin's nontechnical writing is as stylish as his technical work.