Could it be true that Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica
is the most influential book written in the 20th century? Ask any mathematician or philosopher--or anyone who understands the impact these fields have had on modern thinking--and you'll get a short answer: yes. Their goal, to set mathematics on a firm logical foundation, was revolutionary, and their tools and rigor continue to influence modern professionals. Using Peano's symbolic logic, they formalized axioms and produced theorems (including the famous "1 + 1 = 2") in orderings, continuous functions, and other areas of mathematics.
Although the Principia is far from comprehensive, Whitehead and Russell's method and program captivate their readers. The audacity to hope to formalize all of mathematics logically was inspirational and helped to give great boosts to math and logical philosophy. Though Gödel proved in 1931 that any such program is doomed to incompleteness, the tools found in and developed from the three volumes helped build the atomic bomb and the Internet. It may not be summer vacation reading (for most), but Principia Mathematica will reward the dedicated student with a deeper understanding of how we got here. --Rob Lightner
The great three-volume Principia Mathematica is deservedly the most famous work ever written on the foundations of mathematics. Its aim is to deduce all the fundamental propositions of logic and mathematics from a small number of logical premisses and primitive ideas, and so to prove that mathematics is a development of logic.This abridged text of Volume I contains the material that is most relevant to an introductory study of logic and the philosophy of mathematics (more advanced students will of course wish to refer to the complete edition).