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A History of Greek Mathematics, Vol. 1: From Thales to Euclid Paperback – May 1, 1981


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Frequently Bought Together

A History of Greek Mathematics, Vol. 1: From Thales to Euclid + A History of Greek Mathematics, Volume II: From Aristarchus to Diophantus (Dover Books on Mathematics) + The Thirteen Books of the Elements, Vol. 2: Books 3-9
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; New edition edition (May 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486240738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486240732
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Little Heath: Bringing the Past to Life
Thomas Little Heath (1861–1940) was unusual for an authority on many esoteric, and many less esoteric, subjects in the history of mathematics in that he was never a university professor. The son of an English farmer from Lincolnshire, Heath demonstrated his academic gifts at a young age; studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1879 to 1882; came away with numerous awards; and obtained the top grade in the 1884 English Civil Service examination. From that foundation, he went to work in the English Treasury, rose through the ranks, and by 1913, was permanent secretary to the Treasury, effectively the head of its operations. He left that post in 1919 at the end of the first World War, worked several years at the National Debt office, and retired in 1926.

During all of that time, however, he became independently one of the world's leading authorities on the history of mathematics, especially on the history of ancient Greek mathematics. Heath's three-volume edition of Euclid is still the standard, it is generally accepted that it is primarily through Heath's great work on Archimedes that the accomplishments of Archimedes are known as well as they are.

Dover has reprinted these and other books by Heath, preserving over several decades a unique legacy in the history of mathematical scholarship.

In the Author's Own Words:
"The works of Archimedes are without exception, monuments of mathematical exposition; the gradual revelation of the plan of attack, the masterly ordering of the propositions, the stern elimination of everything not immediately relevant to the purpose, the finish of the whole, are so impressive in their perfection as to create a feeling akin to awe in the mind of the reader." — Thomas L. Heath


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Customer Reviews

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It should be noted that this is one of a two volume set.
newton fisher
Sir Thomas Heath shows all Greek mathematics and Greek mathematics is a good place to start; although, it must be said, that mathematics started with the Greeks.
flashgordon
This book assumes that the reader is familiar with the Euclidean geometry which was standard in schools in Heath's time.
Alan U. Kennington

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Paris Chavez on November 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is not a terribly exciting book to read, but it is a superior reference for looking up Greek mathematicians. It is apparent that the author is partial to Euclid, as his section is close to a third of the book, (see the author's version of the Elements)but being a Euclid fan myself I can forgive this easily. Even the most obscure mathematicians are covered in good detail along with what they proved, as well as how they proved it. For those interested in historical mathematics, this book is invaluable. Note: This is a two volume set. I thought it was only one and I only purchased the second. Be sure to get both.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alan U. Kennington on November 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have to give this book 5 stars because it is such an important work. Many other mathematics history books are derived very substantially from this work (i.e. from both volumes I and II). The fact that Heath wrote more than 100 years ago does not in any way imply that his history is less worthy or less scholarly than modern accounts. In fact, many modern accounts of ancient Greek mathematics are no more than diluted versions of the Heath books. One may as well read the source material upon which most modern histories of Greek mathematics are based.

My constant impression when I read this book (both volumes in their entirety) was that we must be enormously grateful to Thomas Little Heath for his total devotion to the translation and interpretation of the surviving manuscripts, and for helping to bring them to light. (He is perhaps best known for his Archimedes translations and interpretations.) Heath had a thorough familiarity with the full range of manuscripts at his time, and the range has not increased inordinately since then. He makes clear that the majority of our sources for ancient Greek mathematics actually date to the first millennium AD.

The majority of this book is about geometry, since other mathematics topics in ancient Greek times were largely seen through the perspective of geometry. Even if you know a lot about modern advanced geometry, and even if you learned Euclidean geometry in the traditional fashion at high school (as I did), the proofs of theorems in this book are very hard work. The Greek genius for mathematics is breathtaking.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By flashgordon on November 7, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Or, at least, Sir Thomas Heath's "A History of Greek Mathematics(in two volumes; i just finished volume 1)" is a good place to start a real technical history of mathematics.

Recently, William Duham and John Stillwell, have tried to make histories of mathematics with the books stuffed with the actual mathematics; the only problem with those books, is they cast the ancient mathematics in terms of modern mathematics. I don't totally disagree with this approach; i absolutely agree that we should see the connections between ancient and modern mathematics; but, those books can only show so much of the ancient mathematics. Sir Thomas Heath shows all Greek mathematics and Greek mathematics is a good place to start; although, it must be said, that mathematics started with the Greeks.

Certainly, mathematics started tens of thousands of years before with much the same cultures that made the European cave paintings. Archaeologists have unearthed tally bones; animal bones(like coyotes) with number markings. The next great mathematical ages were perhaps with 1) those who made Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and 2) the Mesopotamians in general; the Summarians and the Babylonians. A thousand years before the great Greek rational culture effort, the Babylonians discovered the Pythagorean theorem(but did not prove it), used the quadratic formula(once again, did not prove it; has anyone seen an actual proof of the quadratic formula? Seems to me the geometric algebra proofs in Euclid's Elements are the only real proofs of the quadratic formula!), infinit series(of perhaps primitive state), even systems of equations!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By 12345ash12345 on January 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this book is a great reference for math users. the customer service that i received while trying to get this book was very respectable. the book came in better condition than i thought it would and it came in time just before i needed to use it, giving me time to look over the book before i needed to use it for class. highly recommend it.
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18 of 30 people found the following review helpful By newton fisher on July 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
It should be noted that this is one of a two volume set. This author also compiled and commented upon The Elements of Euclid in three volumes [also available here].
These works were first brought to my attention by my Greek language professor nearly 40 years ago as the best English language source on Greek Mathematics.
Just as the Greeks did not view `pure' mathematics or geometry as a lifes-work so to younger readers [through collage] the methods of logic may prove most useful.
For we retired `geezers' not quite ready for Oprah reruns and made for T.V. `romances' it may be the stimulation of the brain by the problems [which are documented and solved in full], the history and the `awe' of how much these did `without computers';
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