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"e": The Story of a Number [Paperback]

Eli Maor
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 8 2009 Princeton Science Library

The interest earned on a bank account, the arrangement of seeds in a sunflower, and the shape of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis are all intimately connected with the mysterious number e. In this informal and engaging history, Eli Maor portrays the curious characters and the elegant mathematics that lie behind the number. Designed for a reader with only a modest background in mathematics, this biography of e brings out that number's central importance in mathematics and illuminates a golden era in the age of science.

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Until about 1975, logarithms were every scientist's best friend. They were the basis of the slide rule that was the totemic wand of the trade, listed in huge books consulted in every library. Then hand-held calculators arrived, and within a few years slide rules were museum pieces.

But e remains, the center of the natural logarithmic function and of calculus. Eli Maor's book is the only more or less popular account of the history of this universal constant. Maor gives human faces to fundamental mathematics, as in his fantasia of a meeting between Johann Bernoulli and J.S. Bach. e: The Story of a Number would be an excellent choice for a high school or college student of trigonometry or calculus. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Everyone whose mathematical education has gone beyond elementary school is familiar with the number known as pi. Far fewer have been introduced to e, a number that is of equal importance in theoretical mathematics. Maor (mathematics, Northeastern Illinois Univ.) tries to fill this gap with this excellent book. He traces the history of mathematics from the 16th century to the present through the intriguing properties of this number. Maor says that his book is aimed at the reader with a "modest" mathematical background. Be warned that his definition of modest may not be yours. The text introduces and discusses logarithms, limits, calculus, differential equations, and even the theory of functions of complex variables. Not easy stuff! Nevertheless, the writing is clear and the material fascinating. Highly recommended.
- Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making Math Understandable Feb. 9 2004
Many textbooks state very little or nothing about the background behind the history mathematics. Maor describes the thought processes of the mathematicians in such a way that one can appreciate Mathematics more. e: The Story of a Number speaks to a broad audience so that, regardless of your mathematical experience, you will understand mathematics better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A story well told April 23 2003
By Sa Chen
I read the book several times. It is an easy reading book for a begining math major (like me).The author did a very good and kind job to us. The other side of the my experience is that I had also tried to read the book "Euler, master of us all" (by a different author) and had found Euler's originals were easier to follow than that "expository" book.
I had always been wondering how people calculated logarithms initially and how logarithm was originated. Well, the story explained to me from the very beginning. Each chapter it tells me something interesting and beautiful that I did not know before. While most textbooks rarely spare the ink to tell the reader how and where some of the most important math ideas and formulas had come along, this book tells me in a gentle and lucid way. I consider this book to be a good friend and I suspect that perhaps even advanced learners may find it a enjoyable read as well. Well, I also think it will be very nice if calculus professors use this book as one of their references.
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By A Customer
This is one of the best history of mathematics books I have read. It was comprehensive and easy to follow even for the uninitiated. However the last two or so chapters are challenging even for those who have a strong math background. This is not in anyway saying that the book is not worth reading, just that one might take care to put off reading the last few chapters until later in one's math carreer or seek the guidence of a wiser more experienced mathematician. Additionally I have actually taken a history or math course with Dr. Maor and would like to add he is a great lecturer as well... I highly recomend this book.
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It would be a great side reading for Real Analysis and Multivariable Calculus class. The greatest wonder I had during the first half of Real Analysis (Rudin's book) class was answered. I thought 'e' should rather be called "magical log" rather than natural log because of all the fascinating features it has. Maor discusses every aspect of this magic number in a language that is friendly to non-mathematicians. I liked the real world application of natural log such as music and finance, and the derivation of Euler's Formula e^(i*pi)+1=0.
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