Professor Aaboe gives here the reader a feeling for the universality of important mathematics, putting each chosen topic into its proper setting, thus bringing out the continuity and cumulative nature of mathematical knowledge. The material he selects is mathematically elementary, yet exhibits the depth that is characteristic of truly great thought patterns in all ages. The success of this exposition is due to the author's unique approach to his subject. He wisely refrains from attempting a general survey of mathematics in antiquity, but selects, instead, a few representative items that he can treat in detail. He describes Babylonian mathematics as revealed from cuneiform texts discovered only recently, as well as more familiar topics developed by the Greeks. Although each chapter can be read as a separate unit, there are many connecting threads. Aaboe stays as close to the original texts as is comfortable for a modern reader, and the bibliography enables the interested student to delve more deeply into any aspect of ancient mathematics that catches his or her fancy.
Among other things, Aaboe shows us how the Babylonians did calculations, how Euclid proved that there are infinitely many primes, how Ptolemy constructed a trigonometric table in his Almagest, and how Archimedes trisected the angle.