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Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical Life Hardcover – November 17, 2008
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This book provides some of Lewis Carroll's life history, but the latter half of the book focuses specifically on his life as a mathematician. He developed some famous mathematical puzzles (as given in the book), a much easier way of calculating the determinants of 3x3, 4x4 and 5x5 matrices (explained in the book), and quite an ingenious way of drawing inferences in propositional logic (a diagrammatic method he called the "Game of Logic" as shown in the book).
If you are not that much into puzzles and logic you might get more benefit from buying a plain biography on Lewis Carroll. However, the maths and puzzles are not crucial to the enjoyment of the book, and you can skip any of them without losing much. Also, the answers to the puzzles are all in the back of the book, and it is fun going through it, even if you don't work them out. If you love the quirky writing style of Lewis Carroll's books and also like working out puzzles, you will love this book and get the most out of it.
Wilson's book is generally chronological, based on Carroll's life which was a fairly dull and conventional Victorian existence, except for his child friends, most (but not all) of them little girls who loved his jokes and stories. Carroll all his life was adept at making puzzles; as a child he designed mazes both on paper and in the snow. Carroll may not have had passions for adults, but he had a passion for Euclid, which in his time was thought the ideal method for teaching reason and logic. He defended Euclid against modern geometry texts in 1879 in _Euclid and his Modern Rivals_; to lighten it, he wrote it as a play in four acts!Read more ›
Actually, Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Dodgson, an Oxford educated mathematician of the mid-1800s. He would also teach at Oxford and start to write his stories there, as well as mathematical works. Always eager to please children (including the inspirational Alice), he would become one of the first people to develop recreational mathematics, a field that focuses on some of the more wonderfully entertaining aspects of numbers (particularly the whole numbers).
Robin Wilson's Lewis Carroll in Wonderland serves as a biography of Dodgson/Carroll, focusing on his work in math. The first half or so is more filled with biographical facts; it is in the second half that we get more of the math, most of which requires no higher learning in the field. We get some of the word play, puzzles, logic problems and riddles that were Carroll's forte. Many are interesting, but admittedly, some of the problems that seem presented as logic problems are anything but, coming off more as tricky riddles and leaving the reader feel a little cheated.
If you have an interest in the life of Lewis Carroll, this would probably be a good book to read; on the other hand, if you enjoy recreational mathematics, this book is merely okay. I tend to think of this book more as a biography, so I'll rate it as a good, four-star read, well-written and with plenty of illustrations.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Pros: Well placed and entertaining quotes from Alice and other books by Lewis Carroll. Frequent use of original texts to give a flavor of the time period. Read morePublished on March 25, 2013 by NCstat
I liked this book because it is a bio of Lewis Carroll from a mathematical standpoint. Yes, it does touch on his literary career, but is mostly about his development as a... Read morePublished on January 9, 2010 by Suzanne Welsch