By Michael Thaidigsmann (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
That’s what my former colleague Stefaan Vaes told the Queen of Belgium yesterday, upon receiving the Francqui Prize, one of the most prestigious Belgian prizes for young scholars or scientists. It literally means “Because we do it gladly” (a better translation is probably “Because we like it”) and of course it is his answer to the rhetorical question, “Why do we do mathematics?”
It’s more or less the same answer I gave during my reading at Shakespeare and Co. last month. I mention this here because I found this sentence in Vaes’s speech at the prize ceremony, in a paragraph in which he cited MWA, and specifically the chapters How to Explain Number Theory at a Dinner Party.
Vaes informed the audience that
Het is niet gemakkelijk voor een wiskundige om zijn werk voor te stellen aan het grote publiek.
You can say that again! But now Queen Mathilde knows why we do it.