the man who loved numbers (14) stupider no more

Erdös's curiosity about food, like his to so many things, was merely theoretical. He never tried to cook rice. , he never cooked anything at all, or boiled water for tea. "I can make excellent cold cereal," he said, "and I could probably boil an egg, but I've never tried." He was 21 when he buttered his first piece of bread, his mother or a domestic servant having always done it for him.

"I remember clearly," he said. "I had just gone to England to study. It was teatime and bread was served. I was too to admit that I had never buttered it. I tried. It wasn't so hard."

But outside mathematics, Erdös's was limited to necessities, such as eating and drinking; he had no time for frivolities such as sex, art, fiction or movies. Erdös last read a novel in the 1940s, and it was in the 1950s that he saw his last movie, Cold Days, the story of an atrocity in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, in which Hungarians brutally drowned several thousand Jews and Russians.

Once in a , the mathematicians he stayed with forced him to join their families on non-mathematical , but he them only in body. "I took him to the Johnson Space Center to see rockets," recalled one of his colleagues, "but he didn't even look up."

Melvyn Nathanson, whose wife was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Erdös there. "We showed him Matisse," said Nathanson, "but he would nothing to do with it. After a few minutes, we ended up sitting in the Sculpture Garden doing mathematics."

When Paul Erdös died, on September 20, 1996, he left an epitaph for himself: Vegre nem butulok tovabb ("Finally I am stupider no more").