From Publishers Weekly
During the latter half of the 20th century, geometry largely fell out of favor within the mathematical community. As Canadian journalist Roberts so well describes in her first book, Donald Coxeter (1907–2003), a University of Toronto mathematician, almost singlehandedly preserved and advanced the discipline through hard work and acute insights. His impact has been felt in a wide variety of fields and acknowledged by the likes of Buckminster Fuller and M.C. Escher. Coxeter also helped transform mathematics education to bring geometry back into the mainstream. This change is critical because, as Roberts explains, a robust understanding of geometry is essential for progress in disciplines from crystallography to cosmology, and from video graphics to immunology. Given Coxeter's long life and career, his biography, in large part, tells the story of mathematics in the 20th century as well as a human portrait of a man who—despite his royal title—was a "humble, hands-on geometer." Roberts, who won a National Magazine Award for a Toronto Life profile of Coxeter, puts most of the technical material in appendixes, so the text is readily accessible to a general audience. 70 b&w photos and diagrams. (Sept.)
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The mathematics of shape and space, geometry was not professionally hip during the career of H. S. M. Coxeter (1907-2003). As Roberts elaborates in this warm but not uncritical portrait, the visual and intuitive aspects of geometry did not attract a field headed in more abstract directions. By the 1950s, a group of French mathematicians mounted the barricades against geometry under the slogan "Death to triangles!" Coxeter took notice but no heed of the radicals, content with his fertile imagination that yielded new geometrical papers up to his nineties. Though keeping geometry vibrant was not Coxeter's intent, it was the effect as, over time, his discoveries came to be useful to architect Buckminster Fuller, string theorists, and Godel, Escher, Bach (1979) author Douglas Hofstadter, who contributes a preface. Roberts accessibly explains the cruxes of Coxeter's discoveries and his place in mathematics history, while her narrative of Coxeter's personal life depicts an aloof but amiable character a bit deficient in the parenting department. With Coxeter appraised by peers as a modern Euclid, Roberts' biography bears inclusion in the popular mathematics collection. Gilbert Taylor
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