To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
A Strange Wilderness: The Lives of the Great Mathematicians Hardcover – October 4, 2011
Top 20 lists in Books
View the top 20 best sellers of all time, the most reviewed books of all time and some of our editors' favorite picks. Learn more
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
The book covers the period from ancient times to the present. It is divided into six main parts, each concentrating on a specific theme or period. Each such part contains either two or three chapters which, in turn, are divided into a number of subsections - each of these is entitled with the name of a particular mathematician. These subsections, which are anywhere from a page to a few pages in length, give a brief over view of the life and accomplishments of the individual that is highlighted. The author does not belabour the mathematical accomplishments with a lot of technical detail but mainly discusses the importance of these accomplishments in the history of mathematics. Also, inserted within each chapter are short sections that describe in more detail a particular issue.
The author writes, as usual, in his very friendly and chatty style. The stories are well recounted in a very lively and captivating way. The book is amply illustrated with a great many pictures and illustrative diagrams. Anyone, whether mathematically inclined or not, can enjoy this book and learn much from it. However, math buffs may get more out of it since they are more likely to understand the mathematical terms used (several of which are briefly explained by the author) as well as appreciate the complexity of some of the problems that these great mathematicians have tackled over the millennia.
1) The descriptions were a little too cold and purely informative to me. They didn't have much life to them.
2) Unlike some other reviews of this book I've read, I felt that the book lacked enough detail on the mathematics that the characters were responsible for. (Some of the other reviews said that they couldn't follow the math, which surprised me because what was covered was pretty elementary, and lacked detail.) The other books I'd read had a more balanced approach -- often alternating chapters of history with the math (albeit not in great detail -- these were all laymen's books)
3) There were some odd omissions -- the most obvious to me was Bernhard Riemann, who was mentioned but was not given the same coverage as others. Also, while the relatively recent solution of Fermat's Last Theorem was mentioned, I would have thought that it merited a little more coverage -- although perhaps Andrew Wiles, the major contributor to that solution may not yet be considered one of the great mathematicians.
4) I did like the fact that this book contained images of various kinds (one common shortcoming of such books is that they often rely too much on just text, with minimal visual aids).Read more ›
"I fell in love with the history of mathematics and the life stories of mathematicians when I took my first 'pure math' course as a mathematics undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley in the mid-1970s...
[Pursuing my love], I learned that the lives of mathematicians can at times be downright weird: they can get absurdly involved in grandiose political intrigue, become delusional, falsify documents, steal from each other, lead daring military strikes, carry on affairs, die in duels, and even perform the ultimate trick: disappearing completely off the face of the Earth so that no one could ever find them...
Researching this book has been one of the greatest adventures of my life as an author. It took me to faraway corners of the world, from the island of Samos, where Pythagoras [circa 580 to 500 BC] was born, to southern Italy, to Beijing and Delhi, and to countless locations in Europe--all in search of intricate details of the lives of our greatest mathematicians...
Our story begins around five thousand years ago in the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia."
The above extract is from the preface and introduction of this fascinating book by Amir Aczel. Aczel is a Guggenheim Fellow and a research fellow in the history of science at Boston University. He is also a prolific author of non-fiction, lecturer, and has appeared on more than fifty television programs.
I can't really add much more than what I quoted above. But I can say that this book is quite well written giving us the true stories of mathematical geniuses.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book to write a paper. It is really interesting and informative, and very happy with the purchase.Published 21 months ago by JessFluffyArmadillo