Proof

by

David Auburn

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Carl Friedrich Gauss was a famous mathematician in the 18th and 19th centuries. When Sophie Germain, a gifted and ambitious female mathematician, wrote to him under a male pseudonym, he mentored her and helped her develop her iconic work. Gauss corresponded with Germain for some time before he discovered her real identity, after which he continued to support her. In fact, he expressed even more respect for her, knowing that she had to overcome so much sexism to develop her skills and become recognized for her work.

Gauss Quotes in Proof

The Proof quotes below are all either spoken by Gauss or refer to Gauss. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Genius and Mental Instability Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Proof published in 2001.
Act One, Scene 3 Quotes

CATHERINE: […] Later a mutual friend told [Gauss] the brilliant young man was a woman.

He wrote to her: “A taste for the mysteries of numbers is excessively rare, but when a person of the sex which, according to our customs and prejudices, must encounter infinitely more difficulties than men to familiarize herself with these thorny researches, succeeds nevertheless in penetrating the most obscure parts of them, then without a doubt she must have the noblest courage, quite extraordinary talents, and superior genius.”

(Now self-conscious) I memorized it…

Related Characters: Catherine (speaker), Gauss (speaker), Sophie Germain
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
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Proof PDF

Gauss Character Timeline in Proof

The timeline below shows where the character Gauss appears in Proof. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene 3
Sexism Theme Icon
...her gender, she used a man’s name to write to another mathematician (a man named Gauss), sending him proofs involving prime numbers. Gauss was happy to work with “such a brilliant... (full context)
Sexism Theme Icon
When Hal asks whether Gauss ever discovered Germain’s real identity, Catherine says that he did. He then wrote to Germain,... (full context)