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Senior Solves Logic Problem

Astounds Mathematicians


An Eliot House Senior, Richard Friedberg '56, will speak at the Institute for Advanced Study today on his solution to a mathematical problem which has been unsolved for over a decade.

Friedberg's solution was immediately hailed as a "wonderful achievement" by three professors. Hartley Rogers, lecturer at M.I.T., and Friedberg's former tutor, described the problem as "one of the most important problems of the last ten years."

Friedberg, a pre-medical student, had never read any books on mathematical logic before last August. The solution grew out of his work on related questions in the general field of mathematical logic.

His invitation to speak at the Institute came from Professor Kurt Godel whose work in 1931 led to the discovery of Post's problem 13 years later. Godel, described as "the foremost logician in the world today" by Hao Wang, assistant professor of Philosophy, had been trying to solve it for some time.

Wang added that "it may help prove the unsolvability of certain decision problems in fields of ordinary mathematics such as topology, algebra, and theory of numbers. While the full implications of this solution for mathematics are difficult to evaluate, I do not hesitate to consider it a remarkable discovery."

"By making positive what had been previously hypothetical, Friedberg's solution provides a basis for further investigation in the undecidability of axiomatic theories," Willard Van Orman Quine, professor of Philosophy, explained.

Andrew M. Gleason, associate professor of Mathematics, reported that "everybody in the Mathematics department has been very pleased with Friedberg's success in this problem."

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