The book analyzes the mathematical tablets from the private collection of Martin Schoyen. It includes analyses of tablets which have never been studied before. This provides new insight into Babylonian understanding of sophisticated mathematical objects. The book is carefully written and organized. The tablets are classified according to mathematical content and purpose, while drawings and pictures are provided for the most interesting tablets.
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This new text from Jöran Friberg, the leading expert on Babylonian mathematics, presents 130 previously unpublished mathematical clay tablets from the Norwegian Schøyen collection, and provides a synthesis of the author's most important work. Through a close study of these tablets, Friberg has made numerous amazing discoveries, including the first known examples of pre-Classical labyrinths and mazes, a new understanding of the famous table text Plimpton 322, and new evidence of Babylonian familiarity with sophisticated mathematical ideas and objects, such as the three-dimensional Pythagorean equation and the icosahedron.
In order to make the text accessible to the largest possible audience, the author has included an introductory chapter entitled, "How to get a better understanding of mathematical cuneiform texts." Throughout the text he avoids anachronisms and makes every effort to teach the reader to do the same. The approach in this book is inherently pedagogical, as Friberg illustrates all the steps of the process of interpretation and clearly explains the mathematical ideas, including terminology, metrological systems, and methods of calculation. Drawings and color photos of a large selection of tablets are also included. Particularly beautiful hand copies of the most complicated texts were made by Farouk Al-Rawi, professor of Ancient Languages and Archaeology at Baghdad University.
While the book is reader-friendly, it remains as detailed and exhaustive as possible. It is the most comprehensive treatment of a set of Babylonian mathematical texts ever published and will open up this subject to a new generation of students, mathematicians, and historians of science.
Jöran Friberg is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. He has recently published the book Unexpected Links Between Egyptian and Babylonian Mathematics (World Scientific 2005), and its sequel Amazing Traces of a Babylonian Origin in Greek Mathematics (World Scientific 2007).Review:
From the reviews:
"This fascinating book presents 121 unpublished mathematical clay tablets from the Norwegian Schøyen Collection ... . The book is divided into 12 chapters, 10 appendices, a vocabulary for MS texts, an index of subjects ... and a large list of references. ... Many pictures, drawings and coloured photos of the most interesting tablets are also included. ... opens up Babylonian mathematics to a new generation of mathematicians, historians of science and mathematics, teachers and students. It can therefore be recommended to a wide audience." (European Mathematical Society Newsletter, June, 2008)
"We welcome the book under review, a study of the Martin Schøyen collection ... . this collection include exemplars of virtually every known type of mathematical tablet, as well as some types of tablets that have never been published. ... Friberg’s book will be invaluable for anyone studying Mesopotamian mathematics, as it provides so many more examples of mathematical ideas that were used by the scribes. ... Any good library in the history of mathematics should possess copies ... ." (Victor J. Katz, Mathematical Reviews, Issue 2008 h)
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