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Mathematics: The Science of Patterns: The Search for Order in Life, Mind and the Universe Paperback – 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A book such as this belongs in the personal library of everyone interested in learning about some of the most subtle and profound works of the human spirit."—American Scientist

"What is mathematics? Keith Devlin has answered with a magnificent panoply of all the major domains of mathematics."—Martin Gardner

"Devlin's book is hugely successful in introducing the lay reader to the real spirit of mathematics and in bringing that reader to some appreciation of the research frontier."—American Mathematical Society

"An engaging and attractive presentation of some of the principle ideas of mathematical thought. Keith Devlin has skillfully blended the old and the new."—Philip J. Davis, Brown University

"A wonderful creation, interesting in its content and beautiful in its design. I predict great success for what is probably the most visually striking mathematics book anyone has ever seen."—William Dunham, author of Journey Through Genius and The Mathematical Universe

About the Author

Keith Devlin is Dean of the School of Science at Saint Mary's College of California and Senior Researcher at Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information. He is the author of Logic and Information, and Mathematics: The New Golden Age and Goodbye, Descartes.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt (2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805073442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805073447
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #519,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Keith Devlin is one of the best popular mathematics writers around, and this is one of his best works. The six chapters cover number theory, set theory, calculus, group theory and topology; but to state it baldly like this is to miss the main value of this seductively illustrated book. Devlin titles his chapters innocuously--"Shape", or "Position"--and the initial discussion, couched generally in English, not mathematics, is so clear that a math-phobic can understand it. By the end of each chapter a great deal of fascinating mathematics has been described, and in some cases the formal basis is sketched--but the emphasis is always on narration, and a lay reader who doesn't even want to understand mathematics can still read this and get a sense of the dramatic history of mathematics. And of the dramatis personae, too; one nice feature is the large number of good pictures of mathematicians, including several more recent figures such as Ribet and Thurston.
Devlin states at the end that he decided to exclude many areas of mathematics in order to focus more effectively on what he did cover. As a result there is little or no coverage of chaos theory, game theory, catastrophe theory, or a long list of other topics. The fact is there will always be holes in a book this size--mathematics has expanded so much in the last hundred years that even a book ten times this size could barely survey it. The decision to focus was a good one, and the subjects chosen are good: the truly exciting stories are here: Archimedes, Fermat, Gauss, Galois, Riemann, Wiles, and many more.
The illustrations deserve an extra comment. I've already mentioned the pictures of mathematicians. There are good diagrams, of the quality you'd expect from Scientific American.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a brilliant example of mathematics at it's best. It is from Scientific American, so you know you can trust it. And it is written at an understandable level, quite a feat for many very complex topics. The book features incredible illustrations, every concept is laid out in a colorful image. If you like the works of M.C. Escher, you will like this book. It has a lot of substance to it, and it will keep you busy thinking for a long time, and that's time well spent
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This marvelous book to explains to non-mathematicians the joy, beauty and power of mathematics. Each topic is presented in an original manner with alot of colorful illustrations to delight the eye and mind. Devlin shows how mathematical thinking is critical to our exploration of the world around us. This is one my top ten of all time list
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Format: Paperback
This book by Keith Devlin is an enjoyable survey for the general reader with a serious interest in mathematics. The presentation is conceptual and there's very little formalism, but Devlin still manages to go into meaningful depth on many topics, so some readers may find portions of the book somewhat challenging. The text is acccompanied by abundant and excellent color graphics.

Devlin at least touches on most of the main areas of mathematics, such as number theory, algebra, logic, set theory, series, functions, calculus, differential equations, geometry, group theory, and topology, but of course this also leaves out areas such as probability, statistics, computational complexity, optimization, nonlinear dynamics, and game theory. But choices have to made in a book of this size, and I think Devlin's tradeoff between breadth and depth is good.

The book gives the reader a meaningful sense of the beauty, power, and mystery of mathematics, so I highly recommend it to people looking for this sort of thing. Just keep in mind that this isn't a textbook, so the book is oriented towards showing the big picture rather than teaching details of mathematics.

Suggested further reading:

1089 and All That - A Journey into Mathematics
Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book! Very readable. A great introduction to a number of areas of math, some of which I knew almost nothing about. Right now, I'm studying calculus using KhanAcademy.org video lessons. This book gave me a much firmer grounding in the basic concepts of calculus. It provided missing context. I didn't understand some of the math which Devlin presents; but the real point of the book is to give an overall understanding of each of several fields of math, even if some of the specific math techniques escape the reader. Lovely book and very worthwhile reading!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Devlin has given some of the clearest explanation of many mathematical concepts and how the fit into the continually improving of mathematical patterns to everyday concepts and problems.

His explanation of the calculus was one of the best I have read.
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Format: Paperback
Keith Devlin is well known for his concise treatments on modern mathematics and of his excellent explanations of the history of mathematics. In Mathematics: The Science of Patterns, Devlin blends these two excellent treatments into one book which is further improved with first rate diagrams and photographs. Only in the chapter on reasoning and communicating did I find myself tempted to skip ahead due to a bit of dryness. I have read this book several times and highly recommend it.
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