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9780738205410

The Annotated Flatland: A Romance Of Many Dimensions

Stewart, Ian Author

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The first-ever annotated edition of the beloved classic, beautifully illustrated and brilliantly brought to life for a new generation of readers.. Flatland is a unique, delightful satire that has charmed readers for over a century. Published in 1884 by the English clergyman and head-master Edwin A. Abbott, it is the fanciful tale of A. Square, a two-dimensional being who is whisked away by a mysterious visitor to The Land of Three Dimensions, an experience that forever alters his worldview. By contemplating the notion of dimensions beyond their own, Abbott's Victorian readers were exposed to the then-radical idea of a fourth dimension-preparing them for Einstein's spectacular theories of relativity.Like the book itself, Ian Stewart's commentary takes readers on a strange and wonderful journey. With clarity and wit, Stewart illuminates Abbott's numerous Victorian references, weaves in little-known biographical information about Abbott and his intellectual circle-elucidating Abbott's remarkable connections to H. G. Wells and the mathematician George Boole-and traces the scientific evolution of geometric forms and dimensions. In addition, Stewart provides an extensive bibliography of Abbott's work and that of Charles Howard Hinton, whose wild but ingenious speculations about the fourth dimension undoubtedly inspired Abbott's fable. Touching on such diverse topics as ancient Babylon, Karl Marx, the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the Gregorian calendar, Mount Everest, and phrenology, Stewart makes fascinating connections between Flatland and Edwin A. Abbott's life and times. The result is a classic to rival Abbott's own, and a book that will inspire and delight curious readers for generations to come.

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Review:

The product of an agreeably dotty cleric named Edwin Abbott Abbott and first published in 1884, Flatland distills all that the Victorian era knew of higher mathematics--and then some--into a witty, complex novel of ideas.

Ian Stewart, the author of the equally witty sequel, Flatterland--which adds to Abbott's store of science the key discoveries made since--does a superb job of explaining the original book's enigmas, allusions, ironies, implausibilities, and what Douglas Hofstadter would call "metamagical themas." Among other things, Stewart comments on Abbott's comments on such things as the nature/nurture controversy, the fourth dimension and beyond, the role of multidimensional spaces in economic systems, infinite series and perfect squares, celestial mechanics, and other matters close to the hearts of cosmologists and science buffs alike.

Stewart's notes make an entertaining and learned addition to an already classic bit of writing--one that has never been out of print since its first publication. For both devoted Abbott fans and newcomers to his work, this is the edition to have. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Ian Stewart is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick, where he is Director of the Mathematics Awareness Center. He has published more than sixty books, including Does God Play Dice? , Nature's Numbers, The Science of Discworld (with Terry Pratchett and Jack Cohen), and, most recently, Flatterland, a sequel to Abbott's classic. Stewart was awarded the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Medal for furthering the public understanding of science and he delivered the prestigious Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 1997.

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Stewart, Ian Author
Published by Basic Books (2001)
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