The Mathematical Universe: An Alphabetical Journey Through the Great Proofs, Problems, and Personalities Hardcover – Aug 11 1994
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
The Mathematical Universe is a solid collection of short essays, with each addressing a particular mathematical topic. Titles range from "Isoperimetric Problem" to "Where Are the Women?" Author Dunham is unafraid to refer to diagrams, equations, and rigorous arguments throughout the book, yet he manages to maintain a conversational tone. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
Like John Allen Paulos's Beyond Numeracy (LJ 4/1/91), this is an A-to-Z collection of mathematical essays. The advantage of this format is that it lets the author hit the highlights in essays that can be read independently. This collection is less cantankerous than Paulos's, and it is also somewhat more focused and mathematically challenging, though still written for a popular audience. Dunham (Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics, Wiley, 1990) is winner of the 1993 George Polya Award for excellence in math writing, an honor he richly deserves. He is fascinated by the nature of mathematical genius, and the theme of these essays is the personality and eccentricities of mathematicians and the brilliance of their discoveries. For sophisticated readers who don't mind equations (including algebra, geometry, and calculus), this is a rewarding and entertaining look at the history of mathematics.
Amy Brunvand, Fort Lewis Coll. Lib., Durango, Col.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Browse and search another edition of this book.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
For me there were two things that made this book a joy to read. One was that, as the preface states, "each chapter provides a strong dose of history." This way each topic was considered in some human context that revealed just how remarkable its development was. The other trait I liked was that while each chapter followed the same basic formula, i.e., some history and then some math, no two chapters were presented in the same way. Thus, Dr. Dunham was able to avoid predictability.
Though the mathematics in this book was not terribly challenging, the reader should be fairly mathematically inclined. The historical periods covered were weighted in favor of the classical Greeks and the 17th century Europeans, and the corresponding developments paralleled current curricula through lower division college math courses.
On the minus side, I would like to have seen a bibliography in addition to the notes at the back of the book.
The author takes an approach that differs from most popular expositions in that there is a good deal of emphasis on the personalities (sometimes cantankerous) of the characters. Mathematicians are often portrayed as brilliant air heads ignorant of the ways of humanity, but here they have all of the human foibles. It is sadly true that intellectual battles are among the most viscous of all. The cross-channel dispute over the origins of calculus lasted for decades and was extremely acrimonious. It took less time for nations to kiss and make up after wars that killed millions of people than it did for the mathematical communities of Britain and France to "resolve" the priority dispute between Newton and Liebniz.
Familial rivalry reached extreme heights (lows) in the Bernoulli family, as at times solving was placed in second position behind squabbling. However, many of the personalities were quite ordinary . Pierre Fermat was in many ways an ordinary member of the French bureaucracy whose life outside mathematics seems to have been quite dull. The most prolific mathematician of all time, Leonhard Euler, was a quite likable father of many children who managed to perform superb mathematics even after going blind.
There is a slithering humorous vein coursing throughout the book, occasionally good but most often a member of the groaner set.Read more ›
As in the previous book, Dunham's descriptions are entertaining and enlightening. The main difference is that this book has broader coverage. As a result, it tends to omit more of the proofs, which I found disappointing, but perhaps that will make it of interest to a wider audience. For people with a deeper interest in mathematics, I recommend you read either "Journey Through Genius" or "Euler: The Master of Us All", another Dunham masterpiece that includes detailed proofs throughout.
Most recent customer reviews
Excellent book that gives us a synopsis of the history of maths from early days. The only criticism I found (and no doubt other readers and the author) is that by virtue of the... Read morePublished on Oct. 10 2003
This book is perhaps the most entertaining popularization I ever came across.The book uses a minimum of mathematical technics to explain a lot of interesting problems and the... Read morePublished on May 4 2003 by Francisco Coutinho
Most books written by mathematical scholors tend to be boring and straightforward. Dunham, on the other hand, knows how to tell a story along with demonstating the intricate world... Read morePublished on April 26 2002 by John Williams
Well written and relatively informative book, which I really enjoyed reading.
The only (minor) quibble is that a couple of the sections .. Read more
William Dunham has exercised wonderful judgement in a book this thin, making sure that maths, history, biography, and personalities appear in good measure. Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2002 by Krishnan Mani
I first read this book a number of years ago and recently read it again. I still think it is a magnificent overview of basic mathematics. Read morePublished on Nov. 11 2000 by Timothy Haugh
I have now read Dunhams 'Journey through Genius', 'Euler, the master of us all' and 'The Mathematical Universe'. Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2000