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# Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics

Like masterpieces of art, music, and literature, great mathematical theorems are creative milestones, works of genius destined to last forever. Now William Dunham gives them the attention they deserve. Dunham places each theorem within its historical context and explores the very human and often turbulent life of the creator — from Archimedes, the absentminded theoretician
...more

Paperback, 320 pages

Published
August 1st 1991
by Penguin Books
(first published 1990)

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And in Bertrand Russels's words:

*Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.*

Dunham has done an excellent job of selecting exemplary theorems that can be explained to an interested reader having no special mathematical training, that are associated with the most greatest mathematicians of all time, and that i ...more

From everybody's favorite theorem (the Pythagorean theorem that is) to the dreaded nightmare-inducing calculus (thank you, Sir Isaac Newton!) and beyond this li ...more

"For disciplines as diverse as literature, music, and art, there is a tradition of examining masterpieces -- the "great novels", the "great symphonies", the "great paintings" -- as the fittest and most illuminating objects of study. Books are written and courses are taught on precisely these topics in order to acquaint us with some of the creative milestones of the discipline and w ...more

The chapter I had the most difficulty with was the one on Heron's formula. Theorems are presented without any indicator of where they are headed. Dunham keeps promising that the formula will eventually be derived, but I gave up beforehand.

The other chapter I would criticize is the one on Euler's number theory, but for different reasons. In developing Fermat's Little Theorem, ...more

The most striking point of the entire book to me was how miserable the vast majority of the featured mathematicians lives ...more

*had*to prove it that way: he had no concept of what we would call algebra. For him a square was just that, and the theorem isn't a^2 + b^ ...more

I use this book when I teach History of Mathematics. It is written for a gen ...more

This book satisfied me on both counts. The biographical information about each mathematician enlightened me about their historical context and their humanity ...more

I can hardly imagine one running out of words of praise for this book. What a treat! I would read it on the bus to and from work (5-odd years since graduating in pure mathematics I became nostalgic), making my 25-minute ride (one way) pass in no time...

To write on any subject, one obviously needs the knowledge of it. However, to write a MASTERPIECE (about masterpieces in the chosen field), I think, requires two more ingredients: passion for the ...more

Now for the downsides:

First, this book claims to be geared at so ...more

On the other hand, I have to admit that it wasn't quite watered-down enough for me. There were plenty of places where I lost the thread of what was going on. Mostly, this happened when the author explained a concept in words (usually in a completely comprehensible way), and then said something like "which, of course, gi ...more

The book is worth the price even if you only read the amazing geometric proof of Heron's formula. Heron seems to wander all over the place making apparently pointless constructions, but then brings everything together and suddenly pulls the rabbit out of the hat, ...more

Still, some cool stuff. Some very clever ways of proving the convergence of the harmonic series. And I hadn't seen Archimedes' proof that the ...more

I LOVED IT!

A brief biography, then a telling of the theorem or formula that made the mathematician great.

This book is super accessible. One can read it for the interesting bios without needing to read the math and still one would get a lot out of this book.

This book really has a niche audience. Anyone who is a math or math-history enthusiast will love this book. There are mathematical concepts here that are not "toned down" but nothing extreme. The average reader would probably struggle through this book but the average math enthusiast wouldn't have any trouble.

Did I enjoy this book? Yes.

Would I recommend it? Only to someone familiar with calculus level math or higher.

I love the way he gives humorous historical background. I graduated in Mathematics Education, and while I can understand everything, sometimes there are proofs that take a little extra brain power. I recently skipped over the bit about the quadrature of lune because I've never heard of it before, and therefore reading through all the proofs seemed a bit useless to me. Also great--it's a good way to have a mathematical read that doesn' ...more

History through genius and no Riemann? Well, I guess we can't always have everything. ;)

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calculus | 1 | 17 | Jun 07, 2007 04:38AM |

Feb 18, 2008 06:01PM