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The Apprenticeship of a Mathematician First Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0817626501
ISBN-10: 0817626506
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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 197 pages
  • Publisher: Birkhauser; First edition (March 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817626506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817626501
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,529,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Palle E T Jorgensen VINE VOICE on June 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There is only a small number of autobiographies by mathematicians. Andre Weil was a giant in math. His autobio, written late in life, is fun to read. Weil has strong opinions that may perhaps not appeal to all. Even so, the book light reading, agreeing or not; and it fun too. For me it was a page-turner. To others perhaps a little pompous. Judge for yourself. While perhaps self-absorbed, I think Weil in his autobio gives personal and fresh insight into the tumultuous period in history, between the two World Wars in Europe, as it relates to math. The main part of the book covers Weil's life before he came to the US.
Weil had a monumental impact on math, and he also wrote some lovely history of math books, --number theory; and then of course some specialized books, that are corner stones in math, but not especially easy to read, at least for beginners. But Andre Weil is a central figure in math. His younger sister Simone Weil was an author and philosopher, and a political activist on the left in French politics in the 1930ties. She died young.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Palle E T Jorgensen VINE VOICE on June 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There is only a small number of autobiographies by mathematicians. Andre Weil was a giant in math. His autobio, written late in life, is fun to read. Weil has strong opinions that may perhaps not appeal to all. Even so, the book light reading, agreeing or not; and it fun too. For me it was a page-turner. To others perhaps a little pompous. Judge for yourself. While perhaps self-absorbed, I think Weil in his autobio gives personal and fresh insight into the tumultuous period in history, between the two World Wars in Europe, as it relates to math. The main part of the book covers Weil's life before he came to the US.
Weil had a monumental impact on math, and he also wrote some lovely history of math books, --number theory; and then of course some specialized books, that are corner stones in math, but not especially easy to read, at least for beginners. But Andre Weil is a central figure in math. His younger sister Simone Weil was an author and philosopher, and a political activist on the left in French politics in the 1930ties. She died young.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jaume Puigbo Vila on August 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title is a little misleading since there is not much math in the book, but a lot of personal stories about the intellectual life and travels of A. Weil. Through them we can glimpse his personality and thus the book will be interesting to mathematicians and historians of mathematics. The reader can detect a completely undogmatic mind, skeptical about justice and politics and with a rather ironic sense of humour. His stay in jail for not reporting for duty at the start of WWII was one of his most productive periods.

He recalls, but he is not able to give a concrete date, the day when H. Cartan and he founded Bourbaki. One of the funniest anecdotes is when Cartan receives a call from a Greek whose name is Bourbaki thinking it is a joke, but they become friends and he is even invited to some of their meetings.

A. Weil was not only an outstanding mathematician but a man of a wide culture and a polyglot. He studied sanskrit to read the great books of Indian literature and spent a couple of years in India. Another interesting story is when he is taken by a Russian spy in Finland and he is saved in extremis from execution by a chance meeting of Nevalinna with the chief of police.

He eventually moved to the US, although the first years must have been very frustrating teaching at second rates colleges where when he provided a proof the students would ask: "Is it going to be in the exam?"

The book ends in the fifties when he is appointed a professor at the University of Chicago after a stay in Sao Paulo.

To sum up, a fascinating personality that had a fascinating although not always easy life.
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Tadej Kotnik on March 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Weil did indeed lead a colorful life, and he certainly was a dominant figure in maths. But if one writes an autobiography, he should be honest when speaking both of his best and his worst. Unlike this, Weil strictly restrains from the reader the chapters of his life which he is not so proud of. I will name just two. First, in the book his wife (with a young son from her previous marriage) simply occurs in his life, and the reader is never told how and where they met, and who was the husband she abandoned because of this acquaintance (I here only comment that it was another French mathematician of the period, and earlier a friend of Weil, but he is not mentioned anywhere in the story). And second, his evading the military service; surely, most of us do not want to die, but to explain that we do not want to serve because we have a hinduistic view of the World is an overused trick (though perhaps it was not overused in those times). One so devoted to that view would definitely not feel at home in Princeton. In addition, in his well-known style Weil is extremely critical of the professional qualities of practically everyone, with exception of his "family" - the Bourbaki. Most of the textbooks by other people were awful, the knowledge of most other people catastrophically incomplete.
Still, there are some interesting facts for those who want to know what a life of a mathematician can involve, and two stars are justly earned. Perhaps this would have been a better book has it been written more in the spirit of Hardy's Apology, omitting the family matters and focusing on what the title promises.
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