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Beyond Infinity

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According to Amir Aczel's "Mystery Of The Aleph: Mathematics, The Kabbalah, And The Search For Infinity," it is very questionable whether Cantor "won" his lifelong effort to master infinity, as stated in the caption to the photo accompanying Barry Evans' excellent piece (Field Notes, June 6)

All through his mature years, Cantor suffered periodic and extended mental depression due only slightly less to his subject's intractability than to the German mathematical community's near-universal dismissal of his proofs. After more than one mental breakdown, Cantor spent his final years in a rest home, exhausted by his labors and by unrelenting rejection.

He turned in the end to philosophy and Elizabethan literature, devoting his energies toward proving that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays. His search for the mathematics of infinity was taken up by Kurt Gödel who, similarly overcome, turned finally to physics, philosophy, and an ontological proof of God's existence.

While Cantor's set theory and his approach to calculating infinity are pillars of modern mathematics, infinity itself still eludes our finite capabilities and comprehension.

— Tom Anderson, Eureka


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