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The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  1,005 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Math’s infinite mysteries and beauty unfold in this follow-up to the best-selling The Science Book. Beginning millions of years ago with ancient “ant odometers” and moving through time to our modern-day quest for new dimensions, it covers 250 milestones in mathematical history. Among the numerous delights readers will learn about as they dip into this inviting anthology: c ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Sterling (first published 2009)
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The first thing I did when I picked up this book was look up Kovalevskaya in the index. As in Sofia Kovalevksaya, mathematical genius and pioneering female mathematician and academician of the 19th century. And there she was, a full page on one of my heroes. Weierstrass's unsung research partner. The first woman in Europe to obtain a doctorate in mathematics and only the third female full professor. This article and the article on Emmy Noether (a female mathematical genius of even higher stature ...more
I found the book too much of a tease, where it would explain the most intuitive concepts that didn't need to be explained and then skip over the more interesting complex things. Introducing the most notable mathematical contributions is a great idea, but two hundred is far too many to remember or appreciate given the limited text.
I thought this was simply a wonderful book. This is the first book I've ready by Clifford Pickover and seeing that he has written many others I think I will go track some of those down. This book basically covers the history of Mathematics in a very concise, but thoughtful way.

Although the book is not a complete history, then again 500 pages would be barely enough to cover a complete history, but "The Math Book" covers some essential points. Pickover tried to do a couple of things when he wrote
Fantastic collection of topics and beautiful illustrations. Warning: If you are looking for a book that gives in-depth explanations of mathematical concepts, this isn't for you: each topic is only given a page of rather large text, so the explanations are often shallow.
This book is the perfect one to reside on the coffee table of math department lounges, as it is possible to open it to any page and use the contents to begin a mathematical conversation. All the subject matter is presented at a level that all professional mathematicians will understand and people with a high school education that included mathematics can easily understand the majority of the topics. For each of the subjects, one page is devoted to a brief explanation and the next contains a colo ...more
Eric Hamilton
More of a history book than a useful dive into actual math topics. Would have been more interesting if each topic was a few pages long (and less topics overall) - with each topic making an attempt to describe and/or teach the reader about the topic. Instead every page is a brief overview of the topic and how it helped our lives - which is interesting, but not interesting enough for a book of this size.
Mikko Karvonen
The Math Book is basically a sweeping history of mathematics told through 250 key milestones. It does not even try to be detailed or all-encompassing, but aims to track the way and rate mathematics has developed over the millenia.

Each subject has been devoted one page of text and one more or less related full-colour image on the opposite page. The result is a visually attractive encyclopedia that is easy to follow. Pickover's enthusiastic, and for the most part layman-friendly writing completes
Following a sort of chronological ordering from the very ancient to the present, each two page spread involves some curious aspect of mathematical significance, with a decidedly curious bent toward a particular philosophical stance on the matter of whether mathematics is created or discovered. Pickover seems to lean toward the discovery side of this argument, which in no way lessens the way he goes from a desert ant that has some method of "counting" its steps (which begs the question of how an ...more
Michael Knight
Overall a good book. It discussed some things that I, as a math major, have never heard of before. The book itself is what I like to call "chunky", here meaning that it doesn't go deep into the theory behind it, but it just makes a " chunk" of the idea and discusses that. While I don't usually like books like this, I enjoyed this one just for the fact that it made me want to research a few more mathematical ideas
Dissertations have been written about many of the milestones in this volume. For each milestone there's a page of text facing a page of illustration that's more artistic than illustrative. It's not a rigorous examination of anything and it's not a book to read in a few consecutive days like a novel. It's an invitation to dig deeper. A kind of chronological checklist to pique your interest. It's piqued mine!
Marinho Lopes
Gostei muito deste livro! O autor tentou reunir as mais importantes descobertas matemáticas que há conhecimento. As descobertas estão ordenadas cronologicamente, sendo cada uma resumida e explicada em termos simples numa só página. Como é evidente, não se fica a compreender a essência da maioria das descobertas, mas obtém-se uma boa visão global sobre a História da Matemática, das suas principais figuras, e sobre os seus campos de estudo.
Do you like Math? Do you like History? Do you like Math History?

If the answer to any of the above was "no", then this is a book with a serious chance of changing your mind.

This book is essentially a highlight reel of math history. With a quick page-long summary (coupled with some interesting art), the author briefly explains some mathematical development, how it happened, who did it, and occasionally an amusing little side note to the history as well.

The topics covered range from the fairly well
Brian Ryer
This is not so much the kind of book that you read cover to cover but more the sort of book you want to have lying around wherever you work (or relax if you're a math geek) as picking it up and flipping it open presents you with a short article on one little bit of the landscape of the magnificent multi-peaked mountain of knowledge called mathematics. You want to dip into it frequently.

For me this short figurative jaunt on the math highlands works as a general purpose inspirational nudge. Prime
Fred Hughes
A highly entertaining book on a topic most people would consider boring.

However I have never thought that zero had to be created, plus a whole lot of other creations that make our world what it is today

Not to mention rubiks cube and instant insanity

A speedy and easy read as the author talks about one math item per page with an illustration on the other page, so nice digestible bites
What an amazing book! I wished my math lecturers had used some anecdotes prior to their classes such as the Normal Distribution Curve, it would have make classes less boring and more fascinating! I absolutely enjoyed this read; it would take a few more thorough readings to fully comprehend it since there are 250 articles of them but that's okay!
Dan Mozgai
A fun and inspiring walk though 250 milestones in the history of math (like the subtitle of the books says). Highlights include Prince Rupert's supernatural poodle, the Banach-Tarski Paradox, Information Theory and the Coastline Paradox. I haven't studied math since college, and this book was a fun trip back in time.
Enfin un livre qui donne des mathématiques à voir ! Et quelles images ! Plus de 250 magnifiques illustrations accompagnées d’un petit texte de vulgarisation très accessible. On voyage dans le temps, de -150 millions avant notre ère où on découvre des fourmis équipées de podomètre, les premières traces de mathématiques sur la terre ? On arrive après de nombreuses découvertes au groupe de Lie E_8. On rencontre en chemin les plus grands mathématiciens. Les célèbres : Pythagore, Thalès, Euler, Gauss ...more
A.R. Davis
This was a very pretty book with page long descriptions of historically significant mathematical concepts. Each description was accompanied with a full page related image. However, you will need to search further for any significant understanding of the ideas.
Daniel Wright
The now-ubiquitous word "awesome" is, sadly, the only word I can use to describe this book. I can't speak loud enough over the noise of Pickover shouting, "LOOK HOW F***ING AWESOME I AM! LOOK, MATHS! IT'S THE F***ING S***, RIGHT?!"

Well, maybe not exactly that, but you get the general idea. Honestly, I will keep this book near me for quite a long time to come, just opening it at a random entry to see what piece of incredible general awesomeness I can find. I mean first there's some ants, and then
I believe that this book has been educational and extremely informative, but this is not my cup of tea. I'm thinking of either selling it, or waiting to read when I begin high school...
Oliver Sampson
The idea of devoting a one page explanation to a particular mathematical topic, explaining it in simple (enough) language so that a mathematical person, but not necessarily a mathematician, can understand the concept, and accompanying it with a beautiful related image is a wonderful idea, and it is executed here very well. What greatly takes away from the book is Mr. Pickover's raging anti-German comments, using every opportunity to pull in the Holocaust either in reference to a Jewish mathemati ...more
Echt salontafelboek - Gewoon enkele maanden laten rondslingeren in huis. (ipv al die kunstboeken) en je huisgenoten geraken ook in de ban.
Alleen al door de prachtige foto's! Heel leuk en enthousiast geschreven met veel zin voor historische anekdotes en referenties.

Van priemgetallen, over de stelling van Fermat tot bijna holyeders in de Antarctische ijsmassa.
Mijn favorieten zijn de imaginaire getallen (1572)van de Italiaanse ingenieur Rafael Bombelli, beroemd voor zijn notatie van de vierkantswo
It was more like a picture book than any math book I ever read. It's still on my shelf, but I may not ever read it again.
Jeff Yoak
This book is just delightful! It's full of interesting ideas and beautiful pictures. It's actually sort of hard to sit and read -- it's something else. It's a coffee table book about mathematics. It's for picking up in an idle moment and reading a brief passage, almost sure to be interesting and even new. In that respect, it's different from any other math book I've owned. Typically, the nature of the beast is such that what you're called to do is follow a long chain of reasoning. Here, it is sm ...more
I was one of those readers who "read it from cover to cover" (Pickover prefaces the book with a bit about the different types of readers he expects).

Setting aside the obvious "why this and not that?" question about what was included, I loved this book. He wrote each entry in a way that was easy for a nonmath person to understand (at least I think so), but that didn't dumb it down or make it uninteresting to the mathy type. I have to say, despite my math degree, I learned a lot from this book --
Aug 04, 2014 Kim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: math
Wonderful illustrations and complete and concise stories of math through the ages!
After 1 year, 1 week and a lot of toilet visits it is finally finished. :)

I'm very glad I bought it. I found it very interesting.

The writer doesn't always succeed to explain the complex matter into terms I understood, but most of the time he does. And it doesn't always stick to the theories, often it just tells about the scientists behind the science, the times they lived in, what practical fields it is used in, why it is important, ...

You do not have to have a scientific background to like th
An elegant, constantly surprising compendium of all things mathematical, arranged chronologically by date of discovery, mostly. It begins with "Ant Odometer," circa 150 million BC, and goes up to 2007 and the mathematical universe hypothesis. For a non-math whiz like me, this is a wonderful way to acquire a nodding familiarity with all sorts of mathematical concepts, ideas, and characters. For someone who really knows math, this will be a fun way to graze in areas less familiar, and its bibliogr ...more
Richard Holmes
Way too superficial bits about too many topics. I'd rather read a full discussion of one tenth as many subjects.
Interesting as far as history goes, but about 1/3 of the topics I knew about generally and it didn't expand my knowledge enough, and 1/3 it is too vague to expand my knowledge. Occasionally I wonder why something was picked. And even the examples are sometimes odd (for algebra one of the formulas requires an x which includes an i [square root of negative one] which hadn't been invented yet.)
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Clifford A. Pickover is an American author, editor, and columnist in the fields of science, mathematics, and science fiction, and is employed at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York.

He received his Ph.D. in 1982 from Yale University's Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, where he conducted research on X-ray scattering and protein structure. Pickover graduated
More about Clifford A. Pickover...
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