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Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Significant Figures by Ian Stewart. A celebrated mathematician traces the history of math through the lives and work of twenty-five pioneering mathematicians In Significant Figures , acclaimed mathematician Ian Stewart introduces the visionaries of mathematics throughout history. Delving into the lives of twenty-five great mathematicians, Stewart examines the roles they played in creating, inventing, and disc A celebrated mathematician traces the history of math through the lives and work of twenty-five pioneering mathematicians In Significant Figures , acclaimed mathematician Ian Stewart introduces the visionaries of mathematics throughout history.
Delving into the lives of twenty-five great mathematicians, Stewart examines the roles they played in creating, inventing, and discovering the mathematics we use today. Through these short biographies, we get acquainted with the history of mathematics from Archimedes to Benoit Mandelbrot, and learn about those too often left out of the cannon, such as Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi c.
Tracing the evolution of mathematics over the course of two millennia, Significant Figures will educate and delight aspiring mathematicians and experts alike. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Significant Figures , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Ian Stewart's books can be excellent, but sometimes he forgets that much maths that excites mathematicians produces from the mere mortal a response of 'So what?
Inevitably with a book like this, giving short summaries of the lives and works of leading mathematicians, it's easy to question the gaps. Where are John Wallis and assorted Bernoullis, for example? And there is one entry, frankly that seems bizarre Ian Stewart's books can be excellent, but sometimes he forgets that much maths that excites mathematicians produces from the mere mortal a response of 'So what? And there is one entry, frankly that seems bizarre. I can see no reason whatsoever for Ada King to be here though I appreciate his use of her surname, rather than using her title.
Whatever Stewart's thinking, there is absolutely nothing in this entry to suggest that King was in any sense a 'trailblazing mathematician' as the subtitle puts it. However, I really enjoyed the range of mathematicians covered, with a good mix of familiar figures Archimedes and Newton, for example to those I'm ashamed to say I've never heard of, or knew the name and very little else Nikolai Lobachevsky springs to mind.
As much as possible, Stewart describes their mathematical achievements in an approachable way, though sometimes his explanations get fairly dense, or he does use a term that isn't in common usage without explaining it. Perhaps not surprisingly, the coverage of the maths is sometimes better than the historical content.
While I loved the dramatic nature of the Cardano entry it made me think I need to look out this sixteenth century mathematician's autobiography we got, for instance, a very vanilla version of Newton's biography - sustaining the now generally doubted idea that Newton did much of his work in the 2 years that Cambridge was suspended due to plague and pointing out that Newton was only the second ever scientist to be knighted, but not that neither he nor Francis Bacon were knighted because of anything to do with science assuming you can call Bacon a scientist.
There is no doubt that mathematicians tend to be less familiar as people than are scientists. Even if you've used Fourier analysis, say, you may well have little idea of who Fourier was and how the technique came about. Stewart has done a real service here. I think, perhaps, the ideal audience would be scientists who use these mathematicians' work without being aware of the person behind it, but as long as the reader has a degree of tolerance for mathematical terminology and exposition if you get the pun in the title, you should be fine , it ought to prove an appealing read.
View 1 comment. Sep 03, Charlene rated it it was amazing Shelves: biography , history. In a statement that was both shocking and disappointing, Harari said that he could not imagine why on Earth he would need to learn geometry or thermodynamics once we live in an intelligent world.
This was an uncharacteristically foolish thing to say. I felt as if I had been blindsided. The only reason we understand the universe around us as much as we do, and that there is even a universe around us to begin with, is because I remember reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, who I actually enjoy. The only reason we understand the universe around us as much as we do, and that there is even a universe around us to begin with, is because imaginative and thoughtful people could not stop themselves thinking about geometry. Think about how Einstein changed the way we think about gravity.
Newton's gravity was brilliant to begin with. Newton had to think about the geometry of a clockwork universe to arrive at his breakthrough. Einstein could only take Newton's work further when thinking about the very geometry of space.
How it bends effects everything!!! Think about how understanding geometry- really thinking about it, conceptualizing it, imagining scenarios -- will shape what we come to find out about black holes.
I would bet my bottom dollar we will need people who are obsessed with thinking about both geometry and thermodynamics in order to really begin to understand black holes. Every time I think about Harari's statement, I feel such a deep disappointment. It has been more than a year since I finished that book, and it still makes me as upset to think about that aspect of the book as I was when I read it.
I think it's safe to say Ian Stewart would agree with me that understanding geometry will be as important to the scholars of the future as it has been to the scholars of the past. With an excitement that was incredibly infectious, Ian Stewart revealed to me the world of symmetry breaking and pattern formation in his book Fearful Symmetry and in his lectures on symmetry, chaos, and emergence. He has been a favorite of mine ever since even if I didn't quite care for Calculating the Cosmos.
In Significant figures, Stewart's love for math drips off every page.
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In particular, it was exciting to read his thoughts, sprinkled throughout the book, on visual thinkers vs non-visual thinkers. Byrnes "The essence of mathematics resides in its freedom.
Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. They appear to betray some hidden intelligence which by a preconceived plan produces the impression of intentional design, a phenomenon which finds its close analogue in nature. Andrews, Magic Squares and Cubes , "First, it is necessary to study the facts, to multiply the number of observations, and then later to search for formulas that connect them so as thus to discern the particular laws governing a certain class of phenomena. In general, it is not until after these particular laws have been established that one can expect to discover and articulate the more general laws that complete theories by bringing a multitude of apparently very diverse phenomena together under a single governing principle.
Skinner's Verbal Behavior , Language, 35, No. I saw exactly how it happened Mathematics is the language of nature. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers.
5 Seriously Mind-Boggling Math Facts | Live Science
If you graph these numbers, patterns emerge. Therefore: There are patterns everywhere in nature. For me, mathematics is a collection of examples; a theorem is a statement about a collection of examples and the purpose of proving theorems is to classify and explain the examples In speaking about their work, mathematicians use the words 'elegance', 'truth', and 'beauty' more than everyone else combined.
Darwin "Je serais reconnaissant a toute personne ayant compris cette demonstration de me l'expliquer. The idea is to be able to paint a landscape in which the proof is obvious. But what is an 'educational result? It goes with creativity. The inductive step tells us that they are close enough for each domino to knock over the next one, the base case tells us that the first domino falls over, the conclusion is that they all fall over. The fault in this analogy is that it takes time for each domino to fall and so a domino which is a long way along the line won't fall over for a long time.
Mathematical implication is outside time. Eccles An Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning , p.
Arabic mathematics : forgotten brilliance?
I've just found 10, ways that won't work. It is the source of true art and science. It's just that I spent more time on problems. Monthly , p. There is no other way to do it. Feynman "Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. Forster "Mathematics compares the most diverse phenomena and discovers the secret analogies that unite them. I only think about how to solve the problem.
But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There's not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it.