Taming the Infinite
Introduced by Matt Parker
Ian Stewart guides us through the complete history of mathematics, from ancient Babylon to chaos theory.
‘Mathematics’, writes Ian Stewart, ‘is often permanent.’ The methods invented by the ancient Babylonians to solve problems are still used today. And yet, more new maths is created every week than the Babylonians managed in 2,000 years. Mathematics underpins almost every aspect of our lives, good or ill, from television and medical scanners to guided missiles, and yet few of us could understand the relevant calculations. Mathematics has an immense influence on human culture, but its history has been all too frequently neglected. In this clear and accessible book, Ian Stewart sets out to explain the most significant building blocks for the lay reader. Starting with the invention of written symbols to denote numbers, he takes us through fascinating calculations related to shape and space, stretching from Euclid’s geometry all the way to the irregular patterns of chaos theory.
There are fascinating asides on key mathematicians, not only giants like Galileo, Newton and Klein, but less well-known pioneers such as Marie-Sophie Germain, who, in the early 1800s, wrote papers under a male pen-name, and Hypatia, head of the Platonist school in Alexandria, who was torn apart by a Christian mob – possibly because her mathematical work was regarded as witchcraft. Stewart is always careful to tie mathematics into the applications we make of it – from deducing the size of our planet to coding our communications. Illustrated with photographs as well as diagrams to explain each concept, this edition also contains a new introduction from Matt Parker. As a writer and ‘Stand-Up Mathematician’, who combines comedy and maths, he appreciates Stewart’s work in encouraging more people to gain pleasure from an understanding of the long and glorious history of mathematics.
‘Have you ever thought of math as terrific fun? Stewart ... makes it that and more’
- Library Journal