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Men of Mathematics (Touchstone Book) by E.…

Men of Mathematics (Touchstone Book) (1937)

by E. T. Bell

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7511318,854 (4.1)10
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    Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics by William Dunham (br77rino)
    br77rino: "Journey" is a wonderful review of a handful of important mathematical theorems, such as the Quadrature of the Lune and the Pythagorean Theorem.

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Interesting book. Got me through many transit trips to and from work back in 2010 or so. Gives some history of the mathematician's lives and times along with their most cherished works. Includes people I never even heard of before. For instance, the book talks of Abel, Cauchy, Jacobi and Galois, but it also talks of Newton, Gauss, and Euler. It covers them in chronological order based on the birth date I think. I would have to check again to make sure.

Anyway, quite interesting for a novice mathematician or a person into the history of mathematics. I honestly don't know who else would be interested in this book.

On the second reading:

Men of Mathematics by E. T. Bell is a fascinating account of both the lives and the achievements of the greatest mathematicians in history. Since this is based on historical mathematicians, they don’t attempt to talk about the people that invented the concept of number. The book is split into 29 chapters with an introduction being included in the count. Some of the chapters include more than one mathematician, but most of them are devoted to only one. For instance, the second chapter talks about three Greek mathematicians; Zeno, Eudoxus, and Archimedes. It includes some of the things they developed but most of the book is devoted to the biographical aspect of it. So Zeno is included because of his four paradoxes that argue that motion is impossible, while Archimedes is included because he practically invented the Calculus without inventing it. Eudoxus is the opposite of Zeno in that he developed a method to deal with infinitesimals.

This book seems to be Europe-centered in that it jumps from the Ancient Greeks to Rene Descartes. So you won’t find an account of the lives of the great Hindu and Arabic Mathematicians, which is somewhat surprising. Ah well, maybe at the time not a lot was known about them. However, I won’t make too many excuses for Professor Bell. All I can say is that the book is good but incomplete.

So it covers Descartes, and the rest of the book is chronological in its treatment. Each person covered has an Epitaph or Epithet summing up their work. Gauss is called the “Prince of Mathematicians”, while the chapter covering the Bernoulli family is called “Nature or Nurture?” Fermat is known as “The Prince of Amateurs” and so on. Here is a list of the mathematicians covered in the book:

Zeno, Eudoxus, Archimedes
Rene Descartes
Pierre de Fermat
Blaise Pascal
Isaac Newton
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
The Bernoulli Family
Leonard Euler
Joseph-Louis Lagrange
Pierre-Simon de Laplace
Gaspard Monge and Joseph Fourier
Jean-Victor Poncelet
Johann Friedrich Carl Gauss
Augustin-Louis Cauchy
Nikolas Ivanovitch Lobachewsky
Niels Henrik Abel
Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi
William Rowan Hamilton
Evariste Galois
Arthur Cayley and James Joseph Sylvester
Karl Wilhelm Theodor Weierstrass and Sonja Kowalewski
George Boole
Charles Hermite
Leopold Kronecker
Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann
Ernst Eduard Kummer and Julius Wilhelm Richard Dedekind
Henri Poincaré
Georg Cantor

As I said earlier, the book does cover some parts of the work they did but the main focus is the biographical point of view.

I read this book before 2012, but I do not recall the exact dates. I decided to pick it back up and read it again to refresh my memories of it. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
The main intent here is biographical rather than mathematical. But this isn't a very good account. He doesn't distinguish between facts and anecdotes and the author always lets his prejudices get in the way of narrative. I guess it just reflects the times in which it was written. The parts i liked the most of this book were the mathematical parts. ( )
  kasyapa | Oct 9, 2017 |
Old text. Zeno, however, was not a mathematician, just a tease.
  dangnad | Jul 12, 2017 |
While there is one chapter on ancient mathematicians, the rest of the book is basically a chapter by chapter review of a dozen or so mathematicians, and their work, of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

The writing is clear and lucid, occasionally humorous for some barbs that stick out like sore thumbs (he doesn't care for Napoleon for example), and thoroughly enjoyable. If you are a math or physics major you will learn a lot you didn't know. Highly recommended.

Fermat, Pascal, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Lagrange, Legendre, Euler, Gauss, Galois, Cantor, Lobachevsky, and many others. ( )
  br77rino | Oct 26, 2013 |
I was disappointed on a recent reading of a few selections to discover an anti-Christian bias.
  drjwsimmons | Jul 16, 2011 |
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This section is headed 'Introduction' rather than 'Preface' (which it really is) in the hope of decoying habitual preface-skippers into reading  - for their own comfort - at least the following paragraphs down to the first row of stars before going on to meet some of the great mathematicians.
In general every essentially new problem in physics leads to types of differential equations which demand the creation of new branches of mathematics for their solution.
To the early developers of the calculus the notions of variables and limits were intuitive; to us they are extremely subtle concepts hedged about with thickets of semi-metaphysical mysteries concerning the nature of numbers, both rational and irrational.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671628186, Paperback)

Here is the classic, much-read introduction to the craft and history of mathematics by E.T. Bell, a leading figure in mathematics in America for half a century. Men of Mathematics accessibly explains the major mathematics, from the geometry of the Greeks through Newton's calculus and on to the laws of probability, symbolic logic, and the fourth dimension. In addition, the book goes beyond pure mathematics to present a series of engrossing biographies of the great mathematicians -- an extraordinary number of whom lived bizarre or unusual lives. Finally, Men of Mathematics is also a history of ideas, tracing the majestic development of mathematical thought from ancient times to the twentieth century. This enduring work's clear, often humorous way of dealing with complex ideas makes it an ideal book for the non-mathematician.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:50 -0400)

This volume looks at the lives and contribution of 35 pioneers of modern mathematics, from Zeno to Poincare.

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