216 pages, 11 color plates. 30 b/w photos, 93 b/w illustrations, 1 table
Spherical trigonometry was at the heart of astronomy and ocean-going navigation for two millennia. The discipline was a mainstay of mathematics education for centuries, and it was a standard subject in high schools until the 1950s. Today, however, it is rarely taught. Heavenly Mathematics traces the rich history of this forgotten art, revealing how the cultures of classical Greece, medieval Islam, and the modern West used spherical trigonometry to chart the heavens and the Earth. Glen Van Brummelen explores this exquisite branch of mathematics and its role in ancient astronomy, geography, and cartography; Islamic religious rituals; celestial navigation; polyhedra; stereographic projection; and more. He conveys the sheer beauty of spherical trigonometry, providing readers with a new appreciation for its elegant proofs and often surprising conclusions.
Heavenly Mathematics is illustrated throughout with stunning historical photographs and informative drawings and diagrams that have been used to teach the subject in the past. This unique compendium also features easy-to-use appendixes as well as exercises at the end of each chapter that originally appeared in textbooks from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries.
"This beautifully written book on an unusual topic, with its wealth of historical information about astronomy, navigation, and mathematics, is greatly to be welcomed."
- Robin Wilson, president of the British Society for the History of Mathematics, author of Four Colors Suffice: How the Map Problem Was Solved
"Written by the leading expert on the subject, this engaging book provides an in-depth historical introduction to spherical trigonometry. Heavenly Mathematics breathes new and interesting life into a topic that has been slumbering for far too long."
- June Barrow-Green, associate editor of The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
"Heavenly Mathematics is a very good book. It offers an interesting, accessible, and entertaining introduction to spherical trigonometry, which used to be a standard school topic but is now rarely studied. Interesting stories, engaging illustrations, and practical examples come together to enhance the reader's pleasure and understanding."
- Fernando Q. Gouvêa, Colby College
"Van Brummelen provides not only a wonderful historical treatment of spherical trigonometry but also a modern one that shows how the ancient and medieval methods were replaced by newer and simpler means of problem solving. Many students will find this a fascinating and worthwhile subject."
- Victor J. Katz, editor of The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam
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Glen Van Brummelen is coordinator of mathematics and the physical sciences at Quest University Canada and president of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics. His books include The Mathematics of the Heavens and the Earth: The Early History of Trigonometry (Princeton) and Mathematics and the Historian's Craft.