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A History of π (Pi) by Petr Beckmann
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A History of π (Pi) (1971)

by Petr Beckmann

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
A very strange book. Enjoyable overall, but filled with non sequiturs and rants against people (Aristotle, Romans) and ideas (socialism) that that author, who must have been a real character, doesn't like. ( )
  joe.dane | Aug 19, 2013 |
This book is exactly what it says: a history of pi from ropes in wet sand to computers. It is a little dated at almost fourty years old, but considering the thousands of years of mathematical history, it covers the developments of the calculation of pi very well. The author is opinionated, but that does not affect his thoroughness. There are numerous geometric proofs and formulous throughout, but they support the text without being the focus. The writing is straight forward and factual. I thought this was an excellent presentation of the subject. ( )
1 vote ASBiskey | Feb 28, 2009 |
a bit of a rant, with (to my mind) needless disparagement of aristotle (among others). a somewhat irritating and inconsistent bias toward the practical ("There is no practical or scientific value in knowing more than the 17 decimal places...", p.101). digs up many interesting facts (i hope they are facts) about the discovery and calculation of π. some sections (eg computer capabilities, c.1970) dated by now. ( )
2 vote lidaskoteina | Mar 7, 2008 |
Pi is an amazing, irrational, and indispensable tool in the mathematical and scientific world. Nature loves a curve, and it takes pi to measure them. At its core, pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius. It is a strange quirk of the universe that it takes a little more than three radii to completely measure the circumference. And it’s the “little more” part that has been vexing mathematicians for the last ten thousand years. Petr Beckmann’s A History of Pi (originally written in 1971) is a unique look at the social, scientific, and mathematical history of this strange constant.

Ostensibly this book is about the evolution of how pi is conceived and used in mathematics and science, and indeed, you’ll get that. The author traces calculations from the dawn of Homo sapiens to the modern day computational methods. There’s the standard Egypt to Aristotle to Newton to Euler to computer timeline (with a good foray into Chinese mathematics included) with plenty of illustrations and geometrics proofs to satisfy the numerically minded.

But then the wheels fall off the wagon. Amid all these wonderful proofs and historical oddities, the author can’t seem to go a single chapter without slighting some nationality, historical figure, or group of peoples. You have to watch out for his unapologetic stance towards just about everybody. He calls out Aristotle for his dullness, the Romans for their engineering backwards-ness, and the Egyptians for their politics. You’ll come for the math, but you’ll stay for the rants. They actually make this book worth reading. It’s as if Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh decided to write a book about the history of the circle. Beckmann’s Eastern European bluntness is all at once refreshing, hilarious, and a bit outdated. It may offend a few people, but it does serve to break up the dryness of pure math history. If you can stomach a little Archie Bunker-style look into the uses of pi, then this book will make for a hum-dinger of a read. ( )
2 vote NielsenGW | Jan 19, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312381859, Paperback)

The history of pi, says the author, though a small part of the history of mathematics, is nevertheless a mirror of the history of man. Petr Beckmann holds up this mirror, giving the background of the times when pi made progress -- and also when it did not, because science was being stifled by militarism or religious fanaticism.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:55 -0400)

The history of pi, says the author, though a small part of the history of mathematics, is nevertheless a mirror of the history of man. Petr Beckmann holds up this mirror, giving the background of the times when pi made progress and also when it did not, because science was being stifled by militarism or religious fanaticism. The mathematical level of this book is flexible, and there is plenty for readers of all ages and interests.… (more)

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