- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Walker Books; 1 edition (July 5, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1408815761
- ISBN-13: 978-1408815762
- ASIN: 0802778127
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,113,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution Hardcover – July 5, 2011
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“A must-read for anyone interested in the history of math, including undergraduates, mathematicians, and amateur historians.” ―Library Journal
“The author…is adept at explaining esoteric concepts at the heart of old arithmetic problems, allowing readers to peer into the mind of a medieval Italian businessman.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“A wonderful and vivid tale about the father of modern mathematics” ―Shelf Awareness
“Devlin illuminates one of the most remarkable and underappreciated episodes in cultural history… A surprising visit to a forgotten well-spring of modern thought.” ―Booklist
“Three cheers for Leonardo Pisano… A wonderful book for history-of-science buffs.” ―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Keith Devlin is a Senior Researcher and Executive Director at Stanford's H-STAR institute, which he co-founded. He is also a Consulting Professor in the Department of Mathematics, and a co-founder of the Stanford Media X research network. NPR's "Math Guy," he is the author of more than twenty-eight books, including The Math Gene. He lives in Palo Alto, California.
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Very little is known about the life of the man we now refer to as Fibonacci. He was born Leonardo Bonacci in Pisa, Italy, around 1170 AD. Leonardo was the son of a customs agent and spent some time interacting with Muslim merchants, where he is thought to have learned the basics of the Hindu-Arabic number system which we still use today. Mr. Devlin did an excellent job of piecing together the scattered facts concerning Fibonacci's life.
There was really no set standard as to how people were named in the twelfth century. Many times people were named after the city in which they were born, therefore Fibonacci has been referred to as Leonardo Pisano. But he has also been known as Leonardo Pisano Bigollo and Leonardo Fibonacci. No wonder the confusion regarding his life history. The author points out that the Arabic standard of naming was no better, and as many of the early mathematical breakthroughs were from Arab regions, we can not be certain who was originally responsible. Also making it difficult to discover mathematical innovators was the common practice of copying other works without giving credit to the original author – what we would call plagiarism today. Since so many manuscripts were lost over time, there is just no way to tell if the existing manuscripts contained only the ideas of the author.
What we do know is that Fibonacci did not invent the number system he put forth in his 1202 publication Liber Abaci. While he was a talented mathematician, his real contribution to society rested in his marketing skills. He had the insight to know how to make the number system available to ordinary citizens. His idea was to package it to directly to the masses, and he did it in such a way that they could both appreciate and understand the concepts. Devlin makes the comparison to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs - they did not invent the computer, but were able to market them in such a way that now they are common in almost every household.
The sequence that bears Fibonacci’s name, and to be honest was previously the only thing I knew about him, was almost an afterthought. In his Liber Abaci he inserted a whimsical puzzle about growing rabbit populations - how many rabbits are created by one pair in one year? He again did not create the problem, but his solution created the series of numbers he is most famous for - the Fibonacci sequence. I also did no realize how common Fibonacci numbers appear in nature - from petals on flowers to leaves on stems and more.
Even though I have a degree in math, I more enjoyed the history lesson presented in this book. I had no idea how important Fibonacci was in the development of modern mathematics. Whether you are good at math or not, whether you love it or hate it, the fact is that our modern world would not exist today without it. This book does include some word problems and their solutions and would be a snoozer for the mathematically challenged, but the history lesson more than makes up for it in my opinion. Devlin’s writing will not keep you on the edge of your seat, but at the same time it will not be a cure for insomnia that text books seem to be. I learned something and that is never a bad thing. I am glad I read this and I rate it 3 stars.
The book is nicely balanced between rigorous historical sources and theoretical precision. Overall it remains very accessible.
A wonderful immersion into the 13th century italian renaissance.
I have really enjoyed this book for its successful attempt to remind us why the modern number system is so important in our everyday life. Leonardo Pisano has been a pilaster in the popularization of basic arithmetics. He has created the technology to deliver sheer power to everyone who needed it: the "Liber Abacci"!