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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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"e": The Story of a Number + An Imaginary Tale: The Story of i [the square root of minus one] (Princeton Library Science Edition) + A History of Pi
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From Amazon

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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By Bookologist TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read this book, I can say that the historical treatment was very interesting, putting flesh and bones to the finished product we all learn something about in Science and Engineering programs in school. The math for the most part was very easy to follow.

In the appendices, the proof of the constant angle between the radius and tangent for the logarithmic spiral is solved using complex numbers and conformal mapping. This is elegant in its simplicity but may be far from intuitive for many. An alternative method is to use rectangular coordinates with y = exp(a.theta)sin(theta), and x = exp(a.theta)cos(theta), and then expressing the tangent at a point on the curve with the derivative (dy/dtheta)/(dx/dtheta) and calling it tan(phi). The radius has angle theta, so we have tan(theta). Then we use the well-known identity for tan(phi - theta). Its a bit more lengthy but its also more intuitive to my way of thinking.

I found also, that the rectangular coordinate approach to the spiral length being equal to the tangential line segment from the tangent point to the vertical axis is a good alternative to the proof given in the appendices. It takes a bit more manipulation but is more intuitive for us with rectangular coordinate thinking. Its amazing how all the mess factors out when this approach is used.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book for those who would like to learn both the history, the significance, and the remarkable applications that spun out of this most important number we nowadays call "e". Many kudos to the author for stimulating my mind and making me aware of both the historical and the theoretical aspects of "e" that I never knew before. Well done!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read Aug. 7 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not as good as the book the author is trying to emulate (Pi), but a good read nonetheless. Fascinating history, well written, easy to read, just enough math.
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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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