Valedictory Address by Alex J. Feingold to the Ramanujan International Symposium on Kac-Moody Lie Algebras and Applications, Jan. 28-31, 2002, Ramanujan Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics, University of Madras, Chennai, India

I thank Professor Sthanumoorthy and all his colleagues who worked so hard to organize this wonderful symposium. I am sure there will be many other successful ones in the future! We look forward to seeing the new young researchers being educated here as they develop and contribute to the international mathematical community. This conference has gone far to promote the communication which unifies mathematicians into a global community. We share the same goals and speak the same language, even if we have different accents.

What are our goals? There is a universe of phenomena which we observe, both physical and mathematical, and both kinds are equally real to us. When we are born, we have no language preset in our brains, but surrounded by the phenomenon of speech sounds, an infant mind finds the hidden patterns and learns language. Perhaps it is the great secret of the rare geniuses such as Ramanujan that they retain more of that remarkable ability to find hidden patterns into adult life. In mathematics and the sciences we are looking for the hidden meaning, the patterns in the phenomena that surround us, trying to learn the language of the universe, both physical and transcendental. Every success brings the joy of discovery which must be an echo of that joy felt as infants in our mother's arms.

How can such patterns be found? There must be some symmetry relating data and transformations of that data, relationships which unify what seems unrelated, abstract concepts which allow us to organize the data to find those patterns. Symmetry. Transformation. Abstraction. Conceptual unification. These are our deepest philosophical goals, but in day-to-day life we may lose sight of them in search of some specific detail: A new formula for root multiplicities! A new power series identity!

We are not pursuing these goals individually, although much of our time is spent in solitary contemplation. We are part of the community of scholars, and we must interact and communicate with that community. So mathematics is a social activity, and interpersonal communication is a vital tool of our profession. When we make a discovery, we strive to teach what we have learned so our conceptual insights will be shared by others. We come together in conferences such as this one to get the benefit of those insights found by our colleagues. And we also share the friendships which grow in our common struggles. Each of us will measure the success of this conference by the new insights gained, by the new friendships created, and by the old friendships deepened. By these measures I think this symposium has been a great success, and I would like to express my gratitude to all who helped make it happen. Thank you.

Links back to:
Webpage of Alex Feingold,
Department of Mathematical Sciences,
Binghamton University.

This Webpage was last updated on 2/27/2002