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Sherlock Holmes in Babylon and Other Tales of Mathematical History (Spectrum) Hardcover – January, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: Spectrum
  • Hardcover: 398 pages
  • Publisher: The Mathematical Association of America (January 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0883855461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0883855461
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 1 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Covering a span of almost 4000 years, from the ancient Babylonians to the eighteenth century, this collection of essays chronicles the enormous changes in mathematical thinking over this time, as viewed by distinguished historians of mathematics. It will be enjoyed by anyone interested in mathematics and its history.

About the Author

Victor Katz is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of the District of Columbia. He has long been interested in the history of mathematics and its use in teaching. His textbook: "A History of Mathematics: An Introduction" was published in 1993, with a second edition in 1998 and a shorter version to appear in 2004. He has written numerous articles and given many presentations dealing with the history of mathematics and its use in teaching.

Robin Wilson is currently Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the Open University, U.K., and Fellow in Mathematics at Keble College, Oxford University. He has written and edited about 25 books, in topics ranging from graph theory and combinatorics, via philately and the Gilbert & Sullivan operas, to the history of mathematics puns.

Marlow Anderson is a professor of mathematics at The Colorado College, in Colorado Springs; he has been a member of the mathematics department there since 1982. He studied partially ordered algebra at the University of Kansas and received his Ph.D. in 1978. He has written over 20 research papers. In addition, he is co-author of a book on lattice-ordered groups, and also an undergraduate textbook on abstract algebra.


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Format: Hardcover
At some point in history, abstract mathematics appeared. Sketchy histories tend to emphasize the role of the Greeks, which was substantial, but their ideas did not sprout from the mathematical equivalent of nothingness. Before there was Greek mathematics, the Babylonians and Egyptians were doing a good deal of mathematics. For this reason, I was pleased to see that the first few papers in this collection deal with Babylonian mathematics, and the title of the book is taken from the title of the first one.
The book is divided into four sections: ancient mathematics, medieval and renaissance mathematics, the seventeenth century and the eighteenth century. Most of the papers examine a specific concept of mathematics as well as the people who developed it. The papers first appeared in mathematics journals such as "College Mathematics Journal" and "American Mathematical Monthly", over the last century. One paper by Florian Cajori appeared in 1917 and one by Eleanor Robson was published in 2002.
A wide range of topics are covered in the papers of this collection and some early papers examine the development of mathematics in non-western cultures such as China, the number systems of North American Indians, the Mayas and the Incas. Some of the papers take an approach that raises possibilities that are outside the coverage found in most books on mathematical history. The paper, "Was Calculus Invented in India?" is overstated, but not by as much as we are often led to believe. Most books tend to state that calculus was simultaneously invented by Newton and Leibniz and largely ignore the shoulders upon which they stood when they made calculus. Two hundred years before Newton, Indian mathematicians were capable of deriving the infinite series expansions for the sine, cosine and arctangent functions.
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