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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review by a mathematics professor
William Dunham's work is of the highest caliber. He not only knows the techniques of writing and making the best use of language but he also knows the math without question. The book is extremely well-organized with a reasonable number of math examples but not so many as to "clog" the flow of the writing and the stories about the discoverers of the great math...
Published on Feb. 23 2002 by William

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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but lacking in depth
Although I enjoyed this book, particularly the historical accounts of mathematical figures, I was disappointed with the lack of mathematical depth with which the subjects were treated. If you want an equally good book with more depth buy Journey Through Genius by the same author.
Published on Dec 19 1999


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review by a mathematics professor, Feb. 23 2002
By 
William (Grifton, NC United States) - See all my reviews
William Dunham's work is of the highest caliber. He not only knows the techniques of writing and making the best use of language but he also knows the math without question. The book is extremely well-organized with a reasonable number of math examples but not so many as to "clog" the flow of the writing and the stories about the discoverers of the great math sequences. This book is, I think, very much worth the price being asked. Very enjoyable reading and one can even use it for study if necessary, such as when writing a thesis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Journey, Sept. 29 2001
By 
"chandp" (Fremont, CA USA) - See all my reviews
As the book's subtitle suggests, it is a journey through some of the world's greatest mathematical achievements. It is a collection of quasi-independent essays, loosely patterned after children's ABC picture books.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysteries of the Mathematical Universe Unraveled, Aug. 30 2001
This review is from: The Mathematical Universe: An Alphabetical Journey Through the Great Proofs, Problems, and Personalities (Hardcover)
Dunham cites John Locke's opinion of math: "Mathematical proofs, like diamonds, are hard as well as clear" (page 115). The books presents a number of such hard and clear proofs. Dunham's facility as a writer makes this book enjoyable and creates the kind of historical context necessary to appreciate the importance of mathematical achievements. The book is erudite, educational, and enjoyable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Oct. 10 2003
By A Customer
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 title, we are limited to one piece as per each letter of the alphabet. I personally would have liked to see the Z chapter written on Zero.
That apart, quite an entertaining read and highly recommended. Dunham should write some more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Entertaining and informative, May 4 2003
By 
Francisco Coutinho (Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo Brazil) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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 genius of the men who first solved them.
Although the mathematical required is minimun , this is not a book for the complete mathematical illiterated reader
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fun way to do ABCs, March 9 2003
By 
Charles Ashbacher (Marion, Iowa United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mathematical Universe: An Alphabetical Journey Through the Great Proofs, Problems, and Personalities (Hardcover)
After reading this book, one wishes that the cardinality of the English alphabet was much larger. That way, there would have been more letters and hence more chapters. Each of the twenty-five chapters deals with a theme that begins with a letter of the alphabet (X- Y plane is one chapter). Some poetic license is taken here. For example, the K chapter has the title Knighted Newton, but that is just part of the fun.
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. The author avoids using the title, "Here's Looking at Eu-Clid," but cannot resist mentioning it later. There is even speculation as to why 50 percent of male mathematicians have beards. Since this reviewer has one, he will offer his own solution. Shaving is boring!
A fascinating collection of essays that touch every facet of the history of mathematics, this is sure to be one of the largest of the crown jewels of popular mathematics.
Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Broad Coverage, but Fewer Proofs than Dunham's Other Works, Jan. 5 2003
By 
Allan Heydon (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In this follow-on to his excellent "Journey Through Genius", William Dunham once again breathes life into a variety of mathematical topics. Whereas "Journey" was arranged around 12 great mathematical theorems, this book is arranged around the 26 letters of the alphabet. Some chapters cover the work of individuals (e.g., "Euler", "Knighted Newton", "Lost Leibniz", and "Russell's Paradox"), while others describe important mathematical results (e.g., "Isoperimetric Problem", "Spherical Surface", and "Trisection"). Still others, such as "Mathematical Personality" and "Where are the Women?", address social aspects of the field.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Road Map to the Mathematical World, April 27 2002
By 
John Williams "croix19" (Brunswick, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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 of mathematics without putting someone to sleep. I thought I wouldn't learn anything too interesting in this book, but surprisingly, I was astounded by many of the facts and anecdotes Dunham presented me with. The best quality of his writing is his train of thought; his logic is not so far out that you aren't able to follow his steps. Everything is laid out like a good road map; it's the Rand McNally of the mathematicians!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good to a point!, March 5 2002
By 
Gerard Fagan (Striling, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Well written and relatively informative book, which I really enjoyed reading.
The only (minor) quibble is that a couple of the sections ..V and W leap to mind feel rather like make -weights to ensure that the title is valid, so that the whole alphabet is represented here.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Journey Through The Greatest Of Arts, Feb. 20 2002
By 
William Dunham has exercised wonderful judgement in a book this thin, making sure that maths, history, biography, and personalities appear in good measure.
There is one chapter for each letter of the alphabet ranging through Arithmetic, Knighted Newton, Mathematical Personality, and culminating in Z ( a chapter on complex or "imaginary" numbers). Even a chapter titled "Where are the women?"! Also, see the chapter on Bertrand Rusell. It will hardly take you an hour or two to read a chapter and you can read almost at random
You need not be intimidated if you do not want to delve deeply into maths. The author has provided just about enough mathematical material in terms of proofs, calculations, diagrams (interspersed with wry humour) The material is not too dense even for the non-technical reader, though you must of course, have the patience to follow a train of thought to its conclusion.
Personally, it represented a return to the wonderful world of maths after a long hiatus, after explorations of such formal (Hall & Knight, SL Loney) and informal (George Gamow, Douglas Hofstafdter, Roger Penrose) scientific writing in my student days.
Some of the pardonable omissions are: 1) I would have liked to see full length chapters on some of my personal favorites such as Gauss, Cauchy, and Hilbert
2) On the utility of prime numbers and number theory, the author seems to have missed out on applications in cryptography
The editing and presentation is excellent. The book is very affordable. Buy two copies, one for your bookshelf, and one for your nephew (niece!)- the budding math prodigy in your family
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