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The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer
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The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  130 ratings  ·  14 reviews
"Georges Ifrah is the man. This book, quite simply, rules. . . . It is outstanding . . . a mind-boggling and enriching experience." -The Guardian (London) "Monumental. . . . a fascinating journey taking us through many different cultures."-The Times (London)"Ifrah's book amazes and fascinates by the scope of its scholarship. It is nothing less than the history of the human...more
Paperback, 656 pages
Published October 9th 2000 by John Wiley & Sons (first published 1981)
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This is truly the definitive of the history of numbers. Ifrah has done a huge amount of research, and this encyclopedic treatment is the result. Among the many fascinating findings is that our modern system of decimal arithmetic, complete with positional notation, zero, and the usual algorithms for +-*/, was first discovered in India, not "Arabia", and much earlier than is often believed: Ifrah cites a large number of references that indicate that place the origin at least by 458 AD. One other v...more
Maurizio Codogno
Questo libro è un'opera monumentale, ancora di più pensando che è stata composta da una sola persona. La parte più corposa del testo racconta tutti i sistemi di numerazione sviluppati dall'umanità. Sono davvero tanti, anche perché soprattutto nell'antichità questi sistemi si evolvevano e pertanto non si può parlare di un singolo sistema ma di una famiglia di sistemi. Inoltre anche il passaggio al sistema di numerazione attuale non è così semplice: si fa in fretta a dire "è stato inventato dagli...more
Andrea Hickman Walker
I think the subtitle is rather misleading because it doesn't really discuss the invention of computers, unless one considers a computer to be any kind of calculating machine. There is a discussion of binary notation, along with the other bases. Overall the book is fascinating and incredibly detailed and informative. I was particularly interested by the fact that zero and cipher come from the same root. The knowledge that science and learning could have progressed much further much earlier is a r...more
Kshitiz Uttam
Numbers are fascinating. So is history. History of numbers, then, must be bewitching. So I thought before I read this work. I was wrong. The book has been terribly written. It reads more like a research paper than a book.
Ifrah has done a terrific job researching this book. However, it seems that he has done just that, nothing more. He failed to weave a story out of the immense information he gathered. For instance, once you tell us how primitives counted, it should be enough. One does not need...more
Detailed survey of counting systems across the world and ages. There are a lot more variations than you'd think; we're just so entrenched in our Arabic system. I skimmed over some of the painstaking details of each system, but everything presented on a more generalized conceptual level was fascinating.
Nathan Pearson
The title is to be taken at face value. If you run across a copy, I dare you to flip it open and not end up droolingly rapt, wondering to yourself how you're ever going to convey to friends how fascinating Ifrah, through decades of absurdly devoted scholarship, has made the topic.
This book has some really interesting information about the origin of numbers and number systems. I had been wondering about why the circle is divided into 360 degrees and not 100 or something else. Then I found this book in a used book store. Eureka!
I have not actually finished this behemoth of a book, nor will I probably ever finish this behemoth book. However, where I have skipped around, I have found it to be incredibly interesting. Definitive.
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]a fascinating read. Ifrah has catalogued the totality of arch
Quite likely the only book you will ever need to understand the history of numbers and what they really mean. I re-read this book once a year. Highly recommended.
I treat this book as a bed time stories for mathematicians. I had problems reading it as my brain refused at some moment to take, chew and understand higher Maths.
Don M
Aug 06, 2011 Don M added it
"Already partly read and no intention to finish" category needed.
Always at hand
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