“Journey Through Genius” by William Dunham

A history of mathematics told through a dozen “great theorems,” from Hippocrates to Cantor. I’m not sure, after reading, who precisely is the intended audience: the amount of actual mathematics seemed a bit heavy for a layperson. I was somewhat skeptical of the text when I started, but my impression improved after getting further in. Dunham manages to weave threads throughout several chapters, giving a coherence to what otherwise could have been disjointed stories separated by centuries. I also found several of his remarks to be quite intriguing. On the specialness of mathematics, he observes that even though modern mathematicians consider much of Euclid questionable in one way or another,

none of his 465 theorems is false … all have withstood the test of time. … [One might] compare Euclid’s record with that of Greek astronomers or chemists or physicians.

Later, I enjoyed very much Dunham’s discussion of the trend (starting in the 19th century) towards mathematics not necessarily tied to the study of the physical world, and its parallels in the rise of non-representational art.

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One Response to “Journey Through Genius” by William Dunham

  1. Anna C. says:

    Very cool! My roommate is a math geek, and I’ve been hunting for a book just like this to give her. Thanks for telling us about this!

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