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The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution
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The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  312 ratings  ·  69 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 & Company (first published 2011)
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James B.
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
Bill Kubeck
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
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
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
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
Vicki Cline
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Koen Crolla
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
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

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

William Monaco
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
"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
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
Peter Flom
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
Matthew Dambro
Nice rendition of the introduction of Hindu-Arabic numerals in the 12th Century. Leonardo the Pisan studied in North Africa as the son of a trade representative. Devlin has done the source work and clearly presents the case for his position that Leonardo is a key figure in the history of Mathematics and is responsible for the transfer of Hindu-Arabic mathematics to first, the northern Italian city states and then Western Europe.
Il titolo italiano è molto fuorviante, in quanto il libro non tratta della successione di Fibonacci, bensì del suo ruolo nella diffusione dei numeri cosiddetti arabi, dell'aritmetica e dell'algebra nell'Italia del XIII secolo.
Detto questo, è un libro divulgativo interessante e mette in luce l'importanza di questo matematico, di cui generalmente si sa poco.
Dale Kurtz
Difficult to read at times and often repetitive but an interesting story. Fibonacci learned the math of the Islamic countries and traders on the Mediterranean and taught it to the traders of Europe. Before this time Europe used Roman Numerals which prevented the use of 0, multiplication, and division ... not to mention that simple addition and subtraction was very difficult. Specially trained mathematicians used the abacus and the average citizen and trader did not know basic math. Fibonacci cha ...more
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
Salem Salem
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
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
This was a very interesting book about the man who introduced modern arithmetic to Western Europe. While not much is actually known about Leonardo of Pisa, his legacy as Fibonacci is known to almost anyone who has taken high school math! The book is actually a fascinating history of how mathematics has always been integral to commerce and it was Leonardo who instigated the transition from the Roman numeral system to the Hindu-Arabic system. He was the first to recognize and popularize the use of ...more
Troye Owens
This book is one of many recent works that labors to dispel the illusion that there was a wall between Muslim cultures and 'western' European culture. The two cultures were indeed in constant peaceful contact through the world of commerce, it was this contact that eventually allowed the west to advance technologically and intellectually. This book's focus is specifically on the mathematical knowledge transmitted from east to west. The book does a great job telling the story but the main complain ...more

As another reviewer put it:

"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."

Leonardo is to Arithmetic as Steve Jobs and Bill Gate to Personal Computers

He was born in 1170, his father sent him to Bugia. Bugia was the port where european and arab merchants made their trades. Chapter 2
Michelle Carter
I feel a little smarter for reading this but honestly I skimmed some of the mathematical equation parts. I was more interested in him as a person and the impact of his work than on the technical specifics of his work.
Vasu Malhotra
It's an appropriate foray into the world of the history of arithmetic. However, it lacks the drive and the intrigue to make for good reading.
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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
More about Keith J. Devlin...
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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.” 1 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.” 1 likes
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