Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture: A Novel of Mathematical Obsession
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Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture: A Novel of Mathematical Obsession

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,562 ratings  ·  118 reviews
In the tradition of Fermat's Last Theorem and Einstein's Dreams, a novel about mathematical obsession.

Petros Papachristos devotes the early part of his life trying to prove one of the greatest mathematical challenges of all time: Goldbach's Conjecture, the deceptively simple claim that every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes. Against a tableau of famous...more
Paperback, 220 pages
Published February 3rd 2001 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 1992)
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Shovelmonkey1
Jun 17, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: number-phobics
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Apparently maths can be fun. Not something I ever really appreciated as a child. Mostly maths was a lesson in which eye contact was to be avoided, a) to limit the chances of being called upon to make any kind of answer regarding anything even vaguely numeric and b) because the maths teacher was kind of creepily weird. This book is what I'd regard as one of the more unconventional additions to the 1001 books list and I really enjoyed learning about the maths as well as Uncle Petros' life story. B...more
Matthew
Dec 02, 2010 Matthew rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Math lovers, science lovers, knowledge lovers, dreamers
Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture tells the story of a brilliant mathematician obsessed with proving Goldbach's Conjecture (as reformulated by Euler: every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes). Despite the seemingly difficult mathematical subject, the book is a quick and easy read. This is a testament to the clear and simple prose of the author, himself a mathematician by training.

While math is the main focus of the book, an underlying theme is the question of how and why...more
Πέτρος
A definitely unusual read, this book deals with the obsession of mathematics. Most people would find them to be boring and useless, nothing but theories without a practical use in everyday life (outside adding or multiplying). The book focuses on the life of a mathematician and shows why this type of people love it so much. Turns out (if you don’t know it yet) that mathematicians love solving enigmas concerning numbers. And not in the same sense as others solve puzzles or sudoku; they love provi...more
Francis
A beautiful, compelling, and tragic story of mathematical obsession. As the story starts, Uncle Petros, once a promising young mathematician, has wasted his intellectual gifts, amounted to very little professionally, and his family holds him in contempt but takes care of him. As his nephew tries to discover what happened from him, Uncle Petros reveals his story of how his brilliant start was eclipsed by his all-consuming obsession to crack Goldbach's conjecture. Along the way he crosses paths wi...more
David
Se podría decir que yo soy un entusiasta de la matemática, y me ha tocado estudiarla como parte de mi carrera de Ingeniería, pero disto mucho de tener esa madera de matemático natural de la que están hechos los genios que se nombran en esta excelente obra de Apostolos Doxiadis. Definitivamente hay que contar con una configuración cerebral y mental bien particular para poder lograr los niveles de abstracción que requiere el pensamiento matemático puro. Creo que esta obra es un homenaje a esa geni...more
Nathan Ramsden
A very pleasing little novel. Clever, witty, and enjoyable. Unfortunately it's also pretty forgettable, and I fail to recall more than a hazy glow of general satisfaction from my reading of this.

Of course, not the least of its pleasures lies in watching a bookshop assistant struggle with their keyboard as you ask "Do you have Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis?"

Yeah.
Terry
Repetitive and dull. The meddle of an author is easily tested by how often he or she uses the same phrase to describe something. While Goldbach's Conjecture is central to the plot of the novella the author says the conjecture dozens of time when this reference is un-needed. The author in no way indicates the actual progress of the problem and the introduction of Kurt Godel and Alan Turing was a dis-service to their memory when presented with such dull dialog.

The end was both a twist and totally...more
Nicolle
I didn't have any preconceptions for this book, my only previous knowledge was that it is about mathematics (obviously!) which, to be fair, means I'm already in favour before I turn the front page! Apostolos Doxiadis has quite cleverly comprised the story of his Uncle Petro's mathematical life into this charming novel without going into too much detail about the mathematics itself making it unambiguous for the non-mathematician to read (or a beginner like me). I particularly liked the way the bu...more
Phil
Take a look at what the other reviewers have said. Overwhelmingly they were seduced by the apparent centrality of narrative, that is Uncle Petros, the mathematical prodigy, and his fixation on solving the Goldbach Conjecture. But that was not the key issue of the novel. That key issue was stated two-thirds into the story - That humankind can aspire to solve everything by reason, but practically speaking, it is the lesson of Icarus that is the bottom line. "Set yourself achievable goals" may seem...more
Christine
The plot and premise of this book was cool - boy admires mysterious old uncle, boy finds out the uncle "wasted" his entire life trying to solve the infamous math problem known as "Goldbach's Conjecture," boy tries to follow in uncle's footsteps. The writing was mediocre - but it's hard to know how much was lost in the translation from the original Greek - and the story somewhat predictable. But I liked it cause it kicked off a firestorm of mathematical obsession in me, and that's a good thing. T...more
Cynthia
This was a fun read and completely understandable even by an English Lit major. It is fiction, and talks about mathematics from a general perspective. There are several mathematical "mysteries" that people have been trying to solve, sometimes for centuries. Goldbach's conjecture (about 260 years old) states that "all even numbers greater than 2 are the sum of two prime numbers." Prime numbers turn out to be very interesting - they are divisible only by themselves and the number 1. To date prime...more
Asma Fedosia
A biographical fiction about the lifelong relationship between a young Greek man, who somewhat resembles the author Apostolos Doxiadis, and his Uncle Petros--a black sheep of the business-oriented family as well as a mathematical genius who devoted his life to the solution of Goldbach's Conjecture (="Every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes"). Besides narrating a captivating and insightful story, Doxiadis, a surprisingly good teacher who teaches by restatement, surveys mathema...more
Kua
Un romanzo piacevole anche per chi, come me, non ha molta confidenza con la matematica. La storia di una vita, quella dello zio Petros, consacrata alla risoluzione di uno dei tre grandi enigmi matematici dei nostri tempi: la congettura di Goldbach. Il racconto è fatto in prima persona da suo nipote, che affascinato dalla figura schiva e misteriosa dello zio, riesce piano piano a svelare il suo passato.
Un libro che lascia intravedere un mondo parallelo: l'universo matematico, in cui può entrare...more
kasia
It's a gripping story, but Doxiadis just isn't a very good writer. What's really disappointing - to me - is that it doesn't actually get into the math very much; for the most part it just kind of describes without explaining ("Then I tried a an algebraic approach"). Also, I found parts of it extremely obnoxious (like the end!) - especially the veiled notion that only the romantic genius type can be a "true" mathematician, and the corresponding implication that mathematics is the only real abstra...more
Amandysha
Una de las historias más fascinantes que he leído. Es entretenida, intrigante y muy fácil de entender incluso para cualquier persona que tenga mínimos conocimientos matemáticos (con saber qué es un número primo basta) o poco interés por esta disciplina.

La narrativa nos sumerge en la belleza de diversos teoremas y conjeturas, pero la historia gira sobre uno de los problemas matemáticos más famosos, antiguos y difíciles de resolver: "La conjetura de Goldbach" (aunque es más correcto llamarla con...more
Srikanth
Uncle Petros & Goldbach's Conjecture: WTF A novel about mathematics thats good to read too!!!!!

Mathematicus nascitur, non fit: Mathematicians are born, not made My parents would so much agree with the above term.

I had the dubious distinction of getting 8 marks in maths paper in Engineering. Engineering!!!!! Good that i didn't end up building something.

Mathematics the devil incarnate for every Indian kid from 7th std till 12th and beyond if he is an engineer. Which we very well be atleast in...more
Beatriz Chavarri
¡Qué libro tan dulce y conmovedor! Es imposible leer El tío Petros y la conjetura de Goldbach sin sentir empatía con Petros Papachristos y con todos los grandes genios de la matemática del siglo XX. No se engañen, no es un libro sobre matemáticas sino sobre los hombres que sufren por ella. Por el hecho de hacer que alguien de Letras, como yo, siguiera leyendo frenéticamente sin importarle las explicaciones de teoremas que me suenan a arameo antiguo, este libro se merece el 5 que le doy.
Quinten Van De Putte
This book was hinted by a maths teacher in the school in which I teach English. Together with the book she gave me some pages with some background information on Goldbach's conjecture. I think those extra pages with mathematics were the main reason why the book had been lying untouched on shelve for quite some time. Luckily, I later found out that no background information is needed to enjoy and understand the story of Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture.
The story is indeed very enjoyable. Th...more
Darshan Elena
A great treat for anyone who has fallen victim to intellectual obsessions, be they mathematical or otherwise. The prose is clear, the characters are charming and familiar, and the historical knowledge presented is captivating. While I often demure from making parallels of this sort, I dare to make one here: this novel is to mathematics what Sophie's World was to philosophy, just a lot more readable. A pure pleasure!
Juliet Wilson
A wonderful, gripping character study of Uncle Petros the once brilliant mathematician and his obsession with one mathematical problem that made him seem a failure and ruined his life. It is very readable and the characters and situations are fascinating and a metaphor for life – is it better to set yourself one great target in life or to aim to achieve easier smaller goals?

Ian
"Every number greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two prime numbers". It's an interesting fact/theory, but it seems a slight one to base a novel on, much less spend your whole life trying to prove that it is true in every occasion. Petros Papachristos does waste his life trying exactly that, although whether it is a waste depends on your point of view. His nephew sees it as a noble struggle in a quest for the essence of things, and endeavours to follow a mathematical number theory path...more
Bazu
Un delizioso romanzo matematico. La storia di zio Petros matematico molto promettente che investe tutta la sua vita nel tentativo di dimostrare la conettura Goldbach.
La storia �� narrata dal nipote affascinato sin da piccolo da questo zio solitario, geniale, distaccato dalle questioni economiche della famiglia, amante degli scacchi, che conduce una vita priva delle comodit�� considerate indispensabili dalla maggior parte delle persone.

La vita di Petros, persona inventata, si intreccia verosimil

...more
D
Delightful & short. And rather realistic, afaik, about mathematics researchers. I loved Petros' rant about multiplication (of natural numbers): ".. an unnatural, contrived, second order (to addition) concept. To invent a name for it is the devil's work .. ". It's a pity that the geometrical proof for the conjecture is missing from the book.
Lys
Un libercolo simpatico e leggero su uno dei problemi irrisolti della matematica (nonché uno dei più semplici da comprendere), la Congettura di Goldbach.
Accessibile a tutti, anche ai non addetti ai lavori, è insieme il racconto di una famiglia, di una ricerca, di una passione e di una ossessione.
Valerie
Feb 27, 2010 Valerie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Valerie by: Math teacher's Book Group
Shelves: cypresslibrary, math
A few excellent ideas about number theory, set against a background of world war and the University/mathematical detachment from world events. It was interesting that the author acknowledged the use of math in wartime. Often that gets overlooked.
Vanesa
Me encantó de principio a fín. Amigablemente narrada, difícil dejar de leer. Guarda una esperanza para el pobre Tío Petros y nos deja un cariño singular por sus protagonistas.
Oran Lang
Oct 05, 2007 Oran Lang rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mathematicians wannabies
The book that convinced me not to pursuit a mathematical career.
Tweedledum
If someone had told me to read a book about a man who spent a lifetime trying to solve a mathematical mystery I would probably have just given them a funny look and thought no more about it.... especially if they had gone on to tell me it had no chapters and nothing much happened...
in short nobody recpmmended this book to me and i had never heard of it until two or three days ago. But now having rated it 5 stars adn coming down from that great feeling of total story immersion I am recommending...more
Phanee
Rating: 8/10

I do realise that most of you probably won't be able to read the Greek I have put up there, but I thought I might as well show off a little bit and put a teensy weensy bit of Greek on my blog!


Just because I am extremely smart, I decided to read a book, that was first published in Greek, in English. If it were the other way around and you were telling me to read a Greek translation of an English book, I wouldn't do it easily or happily, because the majority of books that I have read i...more
Larry Piper
A friend of mine commented that he was feeling insane. The reason had something to do with this book, so naturally, I had to badger my local library into getting me a copy.

This was a book about a man's relationship with his uncle. The uncle was considered by his brothers to have been the family failure. Uncle Petros was a math whiz, who tried to prove one of the most difficult problems of all time, Goldbach's Conjecture, the supposition that all even numbers could be expressed by a sum of two p...more
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Apostolos Doxiadis (Greek: Απόστολος Δοξιάδης) was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1953, and grew up in Greece.
Although interested in fiction and the arts from his youngest years, a sudden and totally unexpected love affair with mathematics led him to New York's Columbia University at the age of fifteen. He did graduate work in Applied Mathematics at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, w...more
More about Apostolos Doxiadis...
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth Από την παράνοια στους αλγόριθμους: Η δέκατη έβδομη νύχτα και άλλες διαδρομές Τα τρία ανθρωπάκια Βίος παράλληλος Circles Disturbed: The Interplay of Mathematics and Narrative

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