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The World of Mathematics

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  100 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
A monumental four-volume reference 15 years in the making, The World of Mathematics was specially designed to make mathematics more accessible to the inexperienced. It comprises nontechnical essays on every aspect of the vast subject, including articles by and about scores of eminent mathematicians, as well as literary figures, economists, biologists, and many other eminen ...more
Paperback, 2576 pages
Published November 6th 2003 by Dover Publications Inc. (first published January 1st 1956)
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Jul 29, 2009 Valerie is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math
7/29-Today I read 2 essays about Newton and one about Gauss, as well as some of The Geometry by Descartes and and an analysis of infintesmals by Bishop Berkeley. Although the beauty of getting drawn into trying to understand the notations and drawings has its allure, it is really the biographical information that I am looking for in order to hook my students. The most singular fact about Newton and Gauss seems to be their ability to hold problems in their head for long periods of time. Most of t ...more
Sep 20, 2008 Seth rated it it was amazing
I didn't know this was still in print, especially not new editions. I've owned at least three full sets of the 1956 edition throughout my life, though, and I can't imagine removing any part of it, just adding new pieces.

This isn't dry, abstract math. This is living, breathing, and accessible independent essays, explanations, biographies, histories, and snippets that touch on most aspect of the math community. Anyone can pick up a volume of this, browse for a few minutes, and find some section in
Feb 18, 2008 Forrest rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: students mathphobes teachers
I'm still, slowly, reading it.

It's a found treasure... and once I found it, I bought a dozen sets to give away to math-interested parties I encounter.

I'll add more detail later, but the gist of this is that it's a set of 133 papers by original authors, most of whom are mathematicians of one stripe or another, skillfully chosen and wonderfully commented upon by Newman.

It's more a book about math than a math book, and once you have finished a volume or two (I am on #3 right now), you'll feel well
Derek Davis
Oct 11, 2012 Derek Davis rated it really liked it
Part way into vol. 2, good stuff, but what am I actually learning? Need to settle down with some elementary calculus and relearn what I forgot 40 years ago
Feb 05, 2008 Dick rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Reading the few parts of this that I could understand after my sr. year of high school helped me decide on a math major in college. For people interested in math, keep an eye out for the 4-volume boxed set in used book stores.
Jun 18, 2010 Jerzy marked it as to-read
Shelves: math
Sounds like a collection of papers and articles by the original historical developers or discoverers of various bits of math? Nice idea -- "read the masters, not their students" as they say, which would be easier if they made collections like these easier to find!
Hugh Chatfield
Jul 31, 2013 Hugh Chatfield rated it it was amazing
Not something you read cover to cover. You can dip in and out just about anywhere, First discovered this set in the local library and later purchased my own copy. Great reading in mathematics. You do't need advanced mathematics to enjoy this trio of books.
Jon Stout
Aug 12, 2007 Jon Stout rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like history of science
I didn't read all of it (that would be overwhelming) but I read the biographies of mathematicians and the sections on the connections between logic and mathematics. Since it is a book of excerpted selections, it varies from incomprehensible to entertaining.
Jacob Sparks
Aug 26, 2009 Jacob Sparks rated it it was amazing
Good accessible math. See Volume III for an excellent few essays on the foundations of math, the axiomatic method and Godol.
Apr 16, 2008 Rob rated it really liked it
Actually, I have only read selected parts from Vol 1 and 3. What I did read (and understand) was pretty amazing!
Nov 22, 2008 Sally marked it as to-read
Shelves: math
can read limited preview here
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James Roy Newman was an American mathematician & mathematical historian. He was also a lawyer, practicing in NY state from 1929 to 1941. During & after WWII, he held several positions in the US government, including Chief Intelligence Officer at the US Embassy in London, Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of War & Counsel to the US Senate Committee on Atomic Energy. In the latter ...more
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“We have found a strange foot-print on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that
made the foot-print. And Lo! It is our own.”
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