Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics

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9780140147391: Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics
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Like masterpieces of art, music, and literature, great mathematical theorems are creative milestones, works of genius destined to last forever. Now William Dunham gives them the attention they deserve.

Dunham places each theorem within its historical context and explores the very human and often turbulent life of the creator — from Archimedes, the absentminded theoretician whose absorption in his work often precluded eating or bathing, to Gerolamo Cardano, the sixteenth-century mathematician whose accomplishments flourished despite a bizarre array of misadventures, to the paranoid genius of modern times, Georg Cantor. He also provides step-by-step proofs for the theorems, each easily accessible to readers with no more than a knowledge of high school mathematics. A rare combination of the historical, biographical, and mathematical, Journey Through Genius is a fascinating introduction to a neglected field of human creativity.

“It is mathematics presented as a series of works of art; a fascinating lingering over individual examples of ingenuity and insight. It is mathematics by lightning flash.” —Isaac Asimov

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In Journey through Genius, author William Dunham strikes an extraordinary balance between the historical and technical. He devotes each chapter to a principal result of mathematics, such as the solution of the cubic series and the divergence of the harmonic series. Not only does this book tell the stories of the people behind the math, but it also includes discussions and rigorous proofs of the relevant mathematical results.

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There is a remarkable permanence about mathematical ideas. Whereas other scientific disciplines regularly discard the old and outmoded, in mathematics new results build upon their predecessors without rendering them obsolete. The astronomical theories and medical practices of the Alexandrian Greeks, works of undisputed genius in their day, have long since become archaic curios. Yet Euclid’s proof of the Pythagorean theorem, set forth in 300 B.C., has lost none of its beauty or validity with the passage of time. A theorem, correctly proved within the rigors of logic, is a theorem forever. Journey Through Genius explores some of the most significant and enduring ideas in mathematics: the great theorems, discoveries of beauty and insight that stand today as monuments to the human intellect. Writing with extraordinary clarity, wit, and enthusiasm, Professor William Dunham takes us on a fascinating journey through the intricate reasoning of these masterworks and the often turbulent lives and times of their creators. Along with the essential mathematics, Professor Dunham uniquely captures the humanity of these great mathematicians. You’ll meet Archimedes of Syracuse, who pushed mathematics to frontiers that would stand some 1,500 years. Unchallenged as the greatest mathematician of antiquity, Archimedes was the stereotypically "absent minded" mathematician, capable of forgetting to eat or bathe while at work on a problem. From the sixteenth century you’ll encounter Gerolamo Cardano, whose mathematical accomplishments provide a fascinating counterpoint to his extraordinary misadventures. In the next century, there appeared the competitive, bickering Bernoulli brothers, who explored the arcane world of infinite series when not engaged in contentious wrangling with one another. And from more modern times you’ll read of the paranoid genius of Georg Cantor, who had the ability and courage to make a frontal assault on that most challenging of mathematical ideas—the infinite. Journey Through Genius is a rare combination of the historical, biographical, and mathematical. Readers will find the history engaging and fast-paced, the mathematics presented in careful steps. Indeed, those who keep paper, pencil, and straightedge nearby will find themselves rewarded by a deeper understanding and appreciation of these powerful discoveries. Regardless of one’s mathematical facility, all readers will come away from this exhilarating book with a keen sense of the majesty and power, the creativity and genius of these mathematical masterpieces.

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9780471500308: Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics

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ISBN 10:  0471500305 ISBN 13:  9780471500308
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, 1990
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