- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (May 24, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691058547
- ISBN-13: 978-0691058542
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 117 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,819,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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e: The Story of a Number 1st Edition
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Until about 1975, logarithms were every scientist's best friend. They were the basis of the slide rule that was the totemic wand of the trade, listed in huge books consulted in every library. Then hand-held calculators arrived, and within a few years slide rules were museum pieces.
But e remains, the center of the natural logarithmic function and of calculus. Eli Maor's book is the only more or less popular account of the history of this universal constant. Maor gives human faces to fundamental mathematics, as in his fantasia of a meeting between Johann Bernoulli and J.S. Bach. e: The Story of a Number would be an excellent choice for a high school or college student of trigonometry or calculus. --Mary Ellen Curtin
"Honorable Mention for the 1994 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Mathematics, Association of American Publishers"
"This is a gently paced, elegantly composed book, and it will bring its readers much pleasure. . . . Maor has written an excellent book that should be in every public and school library."---Ian Stewart, New Scientist
"Maor wonderfully tells the story of e. The chronological history allows excursions into the lives of people involved with the development of this fascinating number. Maor hangs his story on a string of people stretching from Archimedes to David Hilbert. And by presenting mathematics in terms of the humans who produced it, he places the subject where it belongs--squarely in the centre of the humanities."---Jerry P. King, Nature
"Maor has succeeded in writing a short, readable mathematical story. He has interspersed a variety of anecdotes, excursions, and essays to lighten the flow.... [The book] is like the voyages of Columbus as told by the first mate."---Peter Borwein, Science
"Maor attempts to give the irrational number e its rightful standing alongside pi as a fundamental constant in science and nature; he succeeds very well.... Maor writes so that both mathematical newcomers and long-time professionals alike can thoroughly enjoy his book, learn something new, and witness the ubiquity of mathematical ideas in Western culture." (Choice)
"It can be recommended to readers who want to learn about mathematics and its history, who want to be inspired and who want to understand important mathematical ideas more deeply." (EMS Newsletter)
"[A] very interesting story about the history of e, logarithms, and related matters, especially the history of calculus. . . . [A] useful complement to a course in calculus and analysis, shedding light on some fundamental topics."---Mehdi Hassani, MAA Reviews
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I'm not sure who the ideal audience is for the book (other than me, a guy in my 50's who was a math major but does not have an advanced degree, and who works on things like spam filtering algorithms). It seems like you have to have a nontrivial math background, but not an extreme one, to read it. I think it could be quite inspirational for math-oriented kids who can handle it.
As the title implies, the book catalogs the development of the number "e", the base of the natural logarithm. For me, a college math major, the nature and origin of this mysterious number were quite hazy. Born in the era of electronic calculators, I could not fathom the utility of logarithm tables and slide rules, which dominated the anxieties of science and math students for centuries before my time. This book allowed me to feel the pain of those ghostly legions who wrestled with these tools, albeit in a pleasantly blunted way!
Some reviewers have opined that the book gets off subject a lot, but I did not find this to be the case. All the subjects covered were necessary chapters in the development of "e" and the science of logarithmic functions. The book is full of historical detail and anecdotes, in the style of Men of Mathematics, or Aubrey's Lives, but offers more technical grit than those books, like the Dunham books. In particular, information about Napier and the Bernoullis was all really new to me. The development of calculus, on the other hand, has been done to death, and is probably more of interest to high schoolers.
In any event, the book is relatively short, so if the format does not appeal to you, you will not have wasted too much time on it, and I bet you will have learned at least something. I think this book would be a fantastic adjuct to the high school calculus course.