Number Theory: An approach through history From Hammurapi to Legendre

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9780817631413: Number Theory: An approach through history From Hammurapi to Legendre

This book presents a historical overview of number theory. It examines texts that span some thirty-six centuries of arithmetical work, from an Old Babylonian tablet to Legendre’s Essai sur la Théorie des Nombres, written in 1798. Coverage employs a historical approach in the analysis of problems and evolving methods of number theory and their significance within mathematics. The book also takes the reader into the workshops of four major authors of modern number theory: Fermat, Euler, Lagrange and Legendre and presents a detailed and critical examination of their work.

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From the Back Cover:

Number Theory or arithmetic, as some prefer to call it, is the oldest, purest, liveliest, most elementary yet sophisticated field of mathematics. It is no coincidence that the fundamental science of numbers has come to be known as the "Queen of Mathematics." Indeed some of the most complex conventions of the mathematical mind have evolved from the study of basic problems of number theory.

André Weil, one of the outstanding contributors to number theory, has written an historical exposition of this subject; his study examines texts that span roughly thirty-six centuries of arithmetical work ― from an Old Babylonian tablet, datable to the time of Hammurapi to Legendre’s Essai sur la Théorie des Nombres (1798). Motivated by a desire to present the substance of his field to the educated reader, Weil employs an historical approach in the analysis of problems and evolving methods of number theory and their significance within mathematics. In the course of his study Weil accompanies the reader into the workshops of four major authors of modern number theory (Fermat, Euler, Lagrange and Legendre) and there he conducts a detailed and critical examination of their work. Enriched by a broad coverage of intellectual history, Number Theory represents a major contribution to the understanding of our cultural heritage.

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A very unusual book combining thorough philological exactness, keen observation, apt comments of the essential points, picturesque fantasy, enthusiastic love of the subject, and brilliant literary style: a romantic novel of documents. It is both number theory and its history in an inseparable oneness, helping us understand the very roots and the first big stage of progress of this discipline. The author, one of the most prominent number theorists...chose to give us a broad perspective of the birth of modern number theory.--Periodica Mathematica Hungaria

The volume under review...a discursive, expository, leisurely peek over the shoulders of several great authors in number theory...is perhaps unique in the enthusiasm it has inspired. --Mathematical Reviews

Review:

"The book makes a fascinating reading, permitting to perceive the birth of new ideas, and to understand why they should have been born... There are four chapters: Protohistory, Fermat and his correspondents, Euler and An age of transition: Lagrange and Legendre, and also several appendices, which introduce a modern point of view and provide proofs for many mentioned results. The book is strongly recommended to anybody interested in the history of mathematics and should be on the shelf of every number-theorist."

--Zentralblatt Math

"As the author says, this is a historical treatment of that oldest and purest field of mathematics, the theory of numbers; his presentation is meticulous and scholarly... The volume under review...is a discursive, expository, leisurely peek over the shoulders of several great authors in number theory, a subject "conspicuous for the quality rather than for the number of its devotees; at the same time it is perhaps unique in the enthusiasm it has inspired", as Professor Weil says in his preface."

--Mathematical Reviews

A very unusual book combining thorough philological exactness, keen observation, apt comments of the essential points, picturesque fantasy, enthusiastic love of the subject, and brilliant literary style: a romantic novel of documents. It is both number theory and its history in an inseparable oneness, helping us understand the very roots and the first big stage of progress of this discipline. The author, one of the most prominent number theorists...chose to give us a broad perspective of the birth of modern number theory.

--Periodica Mathematica Hungaria

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Weil, André
Published by Birkhäuser (1987)
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Weil, André
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