978-0-304-35473-3 / 0304354732

Cassell's Story of Mathematics from Counting to Complexity

by Mankiewicz, Richard




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About the book:

The trouble with mathematics is that, like many things, we come to it at the wrong time. Pity the secondary-school maths teacher who has to educate hormonally crazed, socially excited adolescents in the recondite charms of quadratics, or the hidden miracle of matrices.

Things might have been different in 3B if this handsome book had been a set text. Gorgeously illustrated, energetically written, full of smart and surprising quotations, it tells the exhilarating history of maths, from Pythagoras to Einstein, from algebra to fractals. But this is more than just a "biography". By interweaving maths and modern art, maths and medieval theology, even maths and Mayan calendrics, author Mankiewicz reveals the underlay of the mathematical tapestry, the sometimes unexpected junctures where mathematics has altered our world view.

That said, the book isn't flawless. The plentiful equations can be a bit grisly; sometimes the terminology gets rather daunting (quaternionics, anyone?); even the eccentric typeface errs on the side of smallness. But in an age when Fermat can be a folk-hero, and yet half the world can't subtract without a calculator, this toothsome text would make an ideal gift for any information-hungry child--or intellectually anorexic adult. --Sean Thomas

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