From the Renaissance onwards, mathematics has had a near-mystical status. If the pragmatic Romans, and Christian Europe, did not share the Greeks' fascination with numbers and geometrical shapes, the introduction of Arabic numerals, and the Greek mathematical discoveries kept alive by Arabic scholars, set off a new interest in mathematics which has been with us ever since.
Berlinski focuses on the key moments in mathematical history – and the men behind them. Here are Pythagoras, intoxicated by the mystical significance of numbers; Euclid, who gave the world the very idea of a proof; Leibniz and Newton, co-discovers of the calculus; Cantor, who opened the doors to infinity, before which all previous mathematicians had halted; and G#del, who in one magnificent proof placed everything in doubt and who discovered the algorithm which, along with the calculus, is one of the key ideas of Western science.
With his ability to make abstract ideas concrete and approachable, Berlinski tells an engrossing tale and introduces us to one of the greatest of all human endeavours.
"David Berlinski has achieved something impressive: a snappy, marvellously readable volume with huge quantities of fact (and no mean dose of maths). Brevity is the key: the book focuses on the milestones and big characters, sketches the rest, and does it all with clever humour, allusion and prose that keeps demanding attention."
– New Scientist
"Berlinski can turn a brilliant piece of description [...] and he can slash through the mathematical undergrowth with gusto,"
– Financial Times
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David Berlinski has taught mathematics, philosophy and English at Stanford, Rutgers and the City University of New York, and mathematics at the University of Paris. He has been a research fellow at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in France. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives and works in Paris.