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The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  399 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
In 1202, a 32-year old Italian finished one of the most influential books of all time, which introduced modern arithmetic to Western Europe. Devised in India in the 7th and 8th centuries and brought to North Africa by Muslim traders, the Hindu-Arabic system helped transform the West into the dominant force in science, technology, and commerce, leaving behind Muslim culture ...more
Hardcover, 183 pages
Published July 5th 2011 by Walker Books (first published 2011)
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James Nance
Oct 08, 2011 James Nance rated it it was amazing
I had wanted to write this book. It needed to be written, because the Man of Numbers, Leonardo of Pisa - better known as Fibonacci - was one of the greatest mathematicians of the Middle Ages. We all use the Hindu-Arabic numeral system which he introduced and popularized c. 1200. Fibonacci is most famous for the sequence of numbers named for him, a sequence which is the solution to a story problem that he included in his seminal textbook Liber Abaci to give his readers practice with this 'new' nu ...more
Saleh MoonWalker
داستان جذابی در مورد زندگی فیبوناچی بود. توضیح طولانی ولی جذابی راجع به ریشه تحصیلات ریاضی و اولین استفاده سیستم عدد هندی-عربی در اروپا میده. سیستم روایتیش خطیه واسه همین بیشتر برای کسانی که به ریاضیات علاقه مند هستن جذابه.
Bill Kubeck
Aug 16, 2011 Bill Kubeck rated it really liked it
Often the person who has the greatest impact on society is not the person who invents or discovers a great idea, but the one who is able to explain it to a broad audience. This is the case with Leonardo Pisano. He didn't invent anything because you don't invent in mathematics, and he didn't discover anything new. But he knew that the rapid growth of business and trade demanded a better way of calculation. Thus he wrote Liber Abbaci, a manuscript filled with practical examples of real use of the ...more
Jul 01, 2011 Annie rated it liked it
This was definitely an interesting read. At 150 pages, it was just the right length to learn about the man who introduced the Hindu-Arabic number system to the western world. Without his practical instructions, the advances in the western civilization definitely would have been delayed.
This was also a very educational read. I learned many facts about Fibonacci that I didn't know or wouldn't know to ask. Such as Fibonacci is not his real name, it's Leonardo (another talented Italian Leonardo). O
Sep 12, 2011 Kili rated it liked it
All computer science students know Fibonacci numbers: F(1) = F(2) = 1, n > 2: F(n) = F(n-1) + F(n-2). Remembering Fibonacci for this series is much like people in 2816 calling the hypertext abstraction Job text. That's not exactly right - the people in 2816 would also have to think that Steve Job's name was Appledad.

Fibonacci was named Leonardo, and came from Pisa, hence his name in his time would have been "Leonardo Pisano" (Leonard from Pisa). The name "Fibonacci" comes from "Filius Bonacci
Pete Wung
Nov 09, 2011 Pete Wung rated it liked it
I will have to admit, this is not what I expected. Kevin Devlin has gained popularity as a proselytizer of mathematics, and this book on Fibonacci seems to be the perfect vehicle for someone as erudite and learned in the mathematical arts as Devlin. But this book was a disappointment.

I do not attribute it all to Devlin however. He chose a very difficult and hardly simple task. As Devlin himself admitted, there is scant history on Fibonacci the man, let alone his mathematics. Devlin must have had
Koen Crolla
May 06, 2013 Koen Crolla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
Leonardo of Pisa, more commonly known as the guy who is more commonly known as Fibonacci, revolutionised popular acceptance of applied mathematics through his Liber Abbaci, which also helped bring the Hindu-Arabic numeral system to the West. Precisely because he was so successful, the full extent of his influence has been greatly underestimated, and his revolution was largely forgotten for hundreds of years. This book aims to right this wrong by examining what it was Leonardo did and how his wor ...more
Vicki Cline
Sep 23, 2012 Vicki Cline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math
This was a really interesting book, which cleared up a lot of misconceptions I had about Fibonacci. I had thought his main contribution to math was his series (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, ...), where each new element is the sum of the previous two, and which is found in many places in nature. I had thought he lived in the 17th or 18th century, and that his name was Fibonacci. Actually he lived from around 1170 to 1250, his name was Leonardo Pisano (Leonardo of Pisa) and his real claim to fame was the popu ...more
Dec 31, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it
Fascinating short book about the life of Fibonacci, the man who brought numerals to the Western world. Devlin explains how mathematical innovations from China, India and Arabia transported to Northern Africa where Fibonacci found them while working as a merchant. Devlin does a great job of explaining the history of mathematics, though I wish he could add more detail but I suspect a lot of the historical record is missing many details.
The amazing point to me was how this was in the days before Al
I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. It's a fascinating look at the life of Leonardo Pisano, otherwise known as Fibonacci. It has a lengthy discussion of the origins of mathematics education and the first usage of Hindu-Arabic numerals in Europe. The narrative isn't overly exciting, but it's a quick read and would interest anyone who enjoys math. I liked the story and learned a lot about the beginnings of math as we know it today.

new words: incommensurable, portolan
Bob Gustafson
Dec 09, 2012 Bob Gustafson rated it liked it
This biography, kind of, is like the one I recently read of Eratosthenes. In both cases it seems to me that the authors did boatloads of research, came up nearly empty-handed, but had to produce something to justify the work they had done. So there are a bunch of interesting facts about Pisa, about the states of math and commerce in thirteenth century "Italy" and about Indian contributions to mathematics, and a few about Leonardo of Pisa.
Viewpoints Radio
Jun 27, 2017 Viewpoints Radio rated it it was amazing
Shelves: viewpoints_radio
As hard as it is to imagine, before an Italian mathematician we know as Fibonacci came to the scene, most people didn’t use… numbers. Keith J. Delvin dives into this man's life and how he tremendously helped shape history as we know it. We had the chance to speak with Delvin about Fibonacci's significant contribution to mathematics and our daily lives. To hear his interview, check out our radio show Viewpoints Radio! For the full story, check out this LINK: ...more
Jul 01, 2017 Thomas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math, read_2017
Meh. This could have been a brief essay to correct the common understanding of why Fibonacci is important in the history of math. Instead, it was a all too long and largely boring droning on about unnecessary details. This includes fun facts like listing all the chapter titles for various books (I don't even remember why they were important -- I was just struggling to keep listening by this point).
Mar 19, 2017 Sambasivan rated it liked it
Short and interesting. Gives a brief overview of the Fibonacci folklore and his thought processes. He seems to have revolutionised the mathematical thinking in the west. Good to know that Pingala in India had already talked about the Fibonacci Series in Chandashastra. Ok read.
Flora Brophy
Mar 11, 2017 Flora Brophy rated it really liked it
The story of Leonardo of Pisa (aka Fibonacci), who brought the Hindu-Arabic number system to the Western world in 1202 when he published "Liber abbaci". This number system replaced the cumbersome Roman numeral system, leading to modern mathematics, algebra and geometry. A fascinating history, which has impacted everything around us.
Oct 02, 2016 Niles rated it liked it
 Let's be honest – most people hate math. They not only do not like doing math, they dislike everything about math. So why would anyone waste their leisure time reading about math? Well, there is more to this book than just math. How about a little history?

    Very little is known about the life of the man we now refer to as Fibonacci. He was born Leonardo Bonacci in Pisa, Italy, around 1170 AD. Leonardo was the son of a customs agent and spent some time interacting with Muslim merchants, where
Jan 30, 2012 Converse rated it liked it
Shelves: history, mathematics

Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci, was a mathematician who seems to have been most responsible for popularizing Arabic numerals (which were actually thought up in India) and also for showing how arithematic and algebra could be done with them. Leonardo seems to have born in Pisa about 1170 and was still alive about 1240. He seems to have learned about Arabic numerals and the techniques of arithematic from Arabs when he was in the Algerian port of Bejaia (then called Bugia) where his fat

Bala Sakthis
Dec 21, 2016 Bala Sakthis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the first chapter started with 0, I thought it will be numbered as a Fibonacci series, but it was not so.

Most of us know Fibonacci (pronounced as fi buh naa chee) only for the Fibonacci Series. I guessed, the book will be only about Fibonacci series but was very much surprised as I progressed. The Fibonacci series comes only in the last chapter.

It's interesting to know that his real name was Leonardo Pisano and was very famous for his book Liber abbaci. This book was the first to help the me
Oct 16, 2011 Darrenglass rated it it was amazing
The fact that this book isn't for everyone says a lot more about our society and its attitudes towards mathematics than it does about the book itself. There is an argument to be made that Fibonacci's work has had more influence on the course of human history than any other person. Devlin doesn't quite go that far, but lays out the case that Fibonacci belongs towards the top of that list, as his writings are essentially what brought arithmetic to the west, which then enabled so much of what we do ...more
Notre Dame Regional Secondary
Devlin's investigation into the life and legacy of Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci, as he was later known) suffers from trying to do two things at once and then doing them both badly.

On the one hand, it deals with a fairly obscure branch of intellectual history and tries to do scholarly justice to the subject matter, with long quotations from mathematical texts and lengthy explanations of possible mansucript transmission. Yet the paucity of appropriate citations, the unecessary repetition, and the b
Jan 01, 2012 Troy rated it liked it
Shelves: galileos-gift
"The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution" enthusiastically summarizes the little that is known about Leonardo of Pisa, later more famously called Fibonacci. Those who read medieval primary texts have become used to the dearth of direct evidence related to such texts, as well as the admirable, if Herculean, labors medievalists are forced to perform to prove the most basic biographical details. In the case of Leonardo of Pisa, the proof for his role in the "arithmetic revolution" has ...more
May 14, 2013 Don rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction, math
A history book about math. With that description, it is understandable that many people will be turned off from reading this book. And while it wasn't the easiest book to ready (Devlin's writing about the math was better than the history, in my view), I do think its a book that looks at an interesting development in the history of Western Civilization, which makes it worthy of a look.

The book centers on Leonard of Pisa, better known as Fibonacci, and his ground-breaking work of mathematics, Libe
William Monaco
May 13, 2013 William Monaco rated it it was ok
The Man of Numbers promised to be an educational and interesting book about Leonardo Pisani and his Liber Abbaci - the book that introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe. Through on fault of the author's, there just isn't as much substance to the book as I was looking for. There is a dearth of information surrounding Leonardo's life, and the author is forced to include chapters about Leonardo's potential sources and the other books written because of Liber Abbaci. I was hoping for more of the ...more
Oct 29, 2011 Bonny rated it really liked it
All I really knew about Fibonacci (Leonardo da Pisa) was that he had something to do with the Fibonacci series, so I was glad to stumble upon this book and find out much more. Devlin does a wonderful job writing about a topic that could be dull, and with very little recorded biographical information available. We use Hindu-Arabic numerals every day, and take them for granted. Leonardo da Pisa's introduction of this numeral system to Europe and his ability to help the general public understand an ...more
Peter Flom
Sep 15, 2012 Peter Flom rated it really liked it
Shelves: math, history
Leonardo of Pisa, better known as Fibonacci, is probably most known today for the series that bears his name:

1 1 2 3 5 8 13.....

where the first two numbers are 1's and each succeeding number is the sum of the two previous. But Fibonacci was also the first European author to fully recognize the importance of Hindu/Arabic numbers, and he wrote a famous text: Liber Abacci, about their use. (This is properly translated as book of calculation, not book of the abacus; indeed, it shows how to replace a
Jul 27, 2011 Jeanne rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
A brief history of a mostly unknowable man in mathematics. Known popularly by a nickname and a small problem he proposed in one of his books, Leonardo Pisan is almost lost to history. Devlin pulls together a small book on the man's influence in bringing the Hindu-Arabic number system and algebra to Europe.

What he has to say seems like it could fit in a much smaller work, but the math could easily be a much greater thing. For a popular audience, this is at once both too little and too much. But i
Mar 09, 2014 Conor rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-non_fiction
What should I say about this one?

How about: This is not a book, it's an essay that was pushed far beyond its means. What's worse, the essay part lacks an effective argument.

Or: This is equal parts down-talking, back-tracking, bush-beating-around, and essay.

Or even: The total effect of reading this might be less effective and educational than reading the page on Wikipedia for Fibonacci.

Or maybe: I got this free, if I had to pay the $25 cover price for it, I'd be absolutely livid. I mean, I get
Salem Salem
Mar 03, 2015 Salem Salem rated it really liked it
I'm a huge fan of number patterns. While reading The Crest of the Peacock I came across a reference to Leonardo of Pisa and his role in bringing Indo-Arabic numerals to Europe, something I was astonished I did not know. So it was with great enthusiasm that I found this book and slowly enjoyed it. There is no dramatization of who Fibonacci was, and the books coverage is rather dry. But I was not looking for intrigue; rather history opens up and makes this man very real. I hope that I too may find ...more
Aug 29, 2011 Billpilgrim rated it really liked it
This is a biography of Fibonacci, who is deemed responsible for the introduction of the Indo-Arabic number system into regular use by Europeans. It is somewhat hard to tell his life story, however, because there is so little that is really known about him. There is a lot of supposition in this book. But, the author makes the best case for concluding that it was his efforts that led to the use of our ten digit, base ten, numeric system, throughout Europe.
Parts of the book are less interesting. I
James Spencer
Mar 04, 2016 James Spencer rated it really liked it
Not sure who the target audience was for this short history, but it's extremely well-researched and I enjoyed the read. The history of mathematics and algebra may at first seem arcane and dull, but I found it fascinating to imagine the world before symbolic notation came to be used in calculations. Although I would have liked to read more about the limitations and failings of the Roman numeral system contrasted with the Hindu-Arabic numerals we now use because of Leonardo of Pisa, the author mak ...more
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Dr. Keith Devlin is a co-founder and Executive Director of the university's H-STAR institute, a Consulting Professor in the Department of Mathematics, a co-founder of the Stanford Media X research network, and a Senior Researcher at CSLI. He is a World Economic Forum Fellow and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His current research is focused on the use of differ ...more
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“Underlying all this activity—in the customhouses, on the wharves, in every place of business—were numbers. Merchants measured out their wares and negotiated prices; customs officers calculated taxes to be levied on imports; scribes and stewards prepared ships’ manifests, recording the values in long columns using Roman numerals. They would have put their writing implements to one side and used either their fingers or a physical abacus to perform the additions, then picked up pen and parchment once again to enter the subtotals from each page on a final page at the end. With no record of the computation itself, if anyone questioned the answer, the entire process would have to be repeated.” 2 likes
“When he was about fourteen years of age, Leonardo would have left the fondaco and most likely traveled with an older merchant, a form of apprenticeship system common in those days. Around that time his father summoned him to Bugia. No one knows exactly when he made this voyage. In the introduction to Liber abbaci, he later wrote: “When my father, who had been appointed by his country as public notary in the customs at Bugia acting for the Pisan merchants going there, was in charge, he summoned me to him while I was still a child, and having an eye to usefulness and future convenience, desired me to stay there and receive instruction in the school of accounting.” 2 likes
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