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A Strange Wilderness: The Lives of the Great Mathematicians
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A Strange Wilderness: The Lives of the Great Mathematicians

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Duels, battlefield heroism, secret societies, theft, imprisonment, and feuds fill the pages of A Strange Wilderness. As exciting as any action/adventure novel, this is actually the story of incredible individuals and engrossing tales behind the most profound, enduring mathematical theorems.

Archimedes famously ran naked through the streets shouting, “Eureka, eureka!” after
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Sterling
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Ben Babcock
On my last official day with my Grade 8 class, I did not want to teach them more about fractions. Instead I had asked them to submit a question they had about mathematics—anything, from something they’d learned earlier in the year but didn’t understand to a question that had been simmering since sixth grade. The cards I got back were all across the scale, from earnest to uninterested. Quite a few were about pi. I decided to take the questions and weave them into a broader narrative about the ...more
Bryan Higgs
Ordinarily, I like such books, and have read quite a few of them. However, I found this one a little on the lifeless side -- too much a short description of facts which left me not much impressed. I've read quite a few books on the history of mathematics (both specific and general) that were much better than this one, so I'm trying to figure out what the difference was. Here are my conclusions:

1) The descriptions were a little too cold and purely informative to me. They didn't have much life to
Sep 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Math and science were my two favorite subjects in school and to this day I love when I'm challenged with a difficult problem at work. I was intrigued with the description of this book, to learn more about the lives of the great mathematicians, to learn more about the men (and women!) behind the equations we all memorized in high school. This book turned out to be more about math than about the mathematicians behind the math.

It was an exciting read at first, learning about the Greeks and
Jennifer Ware
hahahahaha! The math was waaaay over my head! I requested this book on a lark because I know someone extremely talented in math. I received the book from for free. It was fascinating to learn that trigonometry, geometry and algebra came 100's of years before the basic math that I can do. Those mathmaticians led wild lives...duals to the death, scandalous affairs, imprisonment, torture and silver alloy fake noses... The book was well written and held my attention even during the ...more
Oct 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Not very strange.

Although I did like this:

"There is a little-known story involving [mathematicians Andre] Weil, [Jacques] Hadamard, and the famous French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. With the Nazi conquest of Paris in 1940, these three Jewish men found it extremely dangerous to stay in France (Weil had also deserted the French army), so they traveled to New York. Hadamard had a visiting professorship at Columbia University, and Levi-Strauss was trying to make sense of the complicated
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
Warning: You need to have a much better math background than mine to really enjoy everything that is in this book. I know you are curious, so 9th grade Algebra (barely), Senior Math Review, Logic, Math for Teachers, and Statistics. I wish I had been a better math student.

Pretty much a brief survey of famous mathematicians from antiquity to the 20th Century. Some biographical information, interesting facts, and description of their contribution.

Marva Whitaker
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I won this book from the goodreads giveaway, and as an advanced copy it still had some grammatical errors and was missing a few pictures/diagrams. But it was an interesting read and really accessible.
Sajith Kumar
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: mathematics
Some people among us don’t relish the prospect of studying mathematics. The probable reason for this aversion is mostly improper assimilation of fundamentals caused due to lapses in the method of teachers who taught them in primary schools. Such people opt for the inexact sciences like biology or humanities like history when the time comes to make a choice. However, reading about the development of mathematics and the lives of its pioneers is as exciting and satisfying as any. So, this book will ...more
Hyung Mook Kang
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Short book for history of mathematics, but great book for the reason that it's intriguing. A bit disappointing that very short references of Riemann and Godel is being presented.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book! I read about some mathematicians I haven’t seen mentioned in other math books and I’ve read a lot of them! Less about math and more about history.
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
The math was way above my head but I enjoyed learning about all these brilliant mathematicians.
Jeremy Hui
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Amir D. Aczel’s A Strange Wilderness recounts the evolution of mathematics. Azcel depicts the essences of thoughts and eccentric lives of history’s foremost mathematicians. The book explores the impact of historical events towards the development of modern mathematics, our art of logical reasoning.
A Strange Wilderness presents a systematic overview of mathematics’ advancements. Azcel’s chronological organization helps readers retain information in a methodical manner. Unlike standard
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading about different mathematicians. It makes me want to know more math so I can solve math problems like the mathematicians profiled in the book.
Stephen Hackney
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
I am a big fan of Amir Aczel. I have all of his books (I think), and have read several. However, this book, while containing some very fascinating background information on a number of mathematicians through history, leaves much to be desired. I think it is the author's approach, the format used in leading the reader from the ancient, early mathematicians up to the 20th century, that is bothersome. While there are several tantalizing bios of individual characters, such as Galois, or Alexander ...more
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
After reading most of Aczel's oeuvre, this book a great excerpt of his longer books on specific aspects of math history. Each chapter covers a short time period and the stories behind the major figures in mathematics are well fleshed out compared to their novel-length treatments. There's also many more illustrations compared to the longer works. Although most of the book was review for me, I appreciated the additional sections on early Arab and Chinese mathematicians, which were touched on in ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Another great book by Amir Aczel! Writing a history of mathematics is a monumental task, but condensing it down to 260 pages (with pictures) is amazing!
I think every scientist and engineer should read this book. It not only provides a time line of discoveries, but it also puts many of them in context. I think everyone could gain from reading relevant sections of this book. Middle and high school students should definitely read section up to the discoveries of algebra and calculus before heading
Jonathon Campbell
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Dr. Aczel takes you through the strange wilderness of mathematics from the first geometric proof to the latest in mathematics mostly through the medium of biography. In this book you meet men such as Pythagoras, the ancient Greek who literally worshipped Math, Archimedes, also of Greek fame; Newton, who conceived the concept of Universal Gravitation and discovered Calculus; Leipzig who independently discovered a superior form of Calculus. Ranging from the Ancient World to the Islamic ...more
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, library, maths
Really enjoyed learning the history behind the development of maths & theories.. While I am pretty ignorant when it comes to math, learning about the people, the development & human struggle behind the great leaps made in finding the answers to number theory, group theory and any number of things.. (heh..) was fun and intriguing.. and just plain dull in some cases.. but definitely a 'keeper' book I'd want to have so I could return to reference it or remind myself of some development or ...more
Brad Lyerla
Jan 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
I learned several odd facts about Thales, Archimedes, Leibniz, Euler, Cantor, Ramanujon and others reading A STRANGE WILDERNESS. But there is no theme or reason for this book. It reads like disconnected Wikipedia entries. Certainly, Aczel offers nothing insightful explaining the "strange wilderness" of the mathematician's mind -- which is what his title promises.

I liked Aczel's FERMAT'S LAST THEOREM very much; so A STRANGE WILDERNESS is a great disappointment.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Reading this book felt more like a slog through encyclopedia entries than an adventure through the wilderness . The author does get more intriguing starting with the French Revolution and he goes more in depth with characters. I felt disappointed with how little of the mathematics was fleshed out but written more as a small detail in a list of biographical facts. The Mystery of the Aleph is not to be missed by this author however!
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've never been so enthralled by history! I couldn't put this down! I'm looking forward to reading it again with a highlighter!
Science For The People
Recommended by Rachelle Saunders on Science for the People show #243 on December 13, 2013.
Busse Library
QA 21 .A29 2011
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: stopped-reading
felt a little too disjointed.
Apr 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I enjoyed this book. However I felt there was more emphasis on the personal side of the stories than on the mathematics. I would have preferred to get a little more understanding on the science.
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and informative look at the lives of mathematicians throughout history. I learned a lot from reading this book.
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Interesting history of mathematicians. I got busy and had to check it in.
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Completely and utterly Meh.
rated it did not like it
Mar 05, 2012
Katelyn Mauel
rated it liked it
Aug 09, 2014
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Amir Aczel was an Israeli-born American author of popular science and mathematics books. He was a lecturer in mathematics and history of mathematics.

He studied at the University of California, Berkeley. Getting graduating with a BA in mathematics in 1975, received a Master of Science in 1976 and several years later accomplished his Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Oregon. He died in
“Mathematics is not a careful march down a well cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost.” 3 likes
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