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# Number: The Language of Science

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*Number*is an eloquent, accessible tour de force that reveals how the concept of number evolved from prehistoric times through the twentieth century. Tobias Dantzig shows that the development of math—from the invention of counting to the discovery of infinity—is a profoundly human story that progressed by “trying and erring, by groping and stumbling.” He shows how commerce, ...more

Paperback, 416 pages

Published
January 30th 2007
by Plume
(first published 1930)

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Showing 1-30

**Literate Mathematics**

A classic in every sense: a model of style and erudition to rank with Oscar Wilde, as inspiring as Zadie Smith, as concise as a page from George Orwell, and as timeless as any of Dickens’s tales. If you have an interest in mathematics, or if you have been scarred by the imposition of tedious calculating techniques in your school days, or if you simply want to understand an enormous part of intellectual history, this is the single most important book you could have at hand.

Th ...more

With an endorsement like that, what more needs to be said? Indeed, this is a very interesting and very informative book, scarcely dimmed by the passage of years -- it was first published in 1930! In the interim, much has changed; one amusing example is the following statement on page 121: "Today [1930:] over 700 corre ...more

Number was first published in 1930 with the fourth edition coming out in 1954. This is a republication of that fourth edition (Dantzig died in 1956) edited by Joseph Mazur with a foreword by Barry Mazur. It is an eminently readable book like something from the pages of that fascinating four-volume work The World of Mathematics (1956) edited by James R. Newman in that it is aimed a ...more

It has enough detail to satisfy you, while keeping away from excessiveness. It is brilliantly written and with a touch of philosophy. I have learned a great deal about the history of mathematics, and have come to realize and understand many fundamental ideas--how they came to be, why they came to be, and what they led to. I am glad to a ...more

“Our intuition permits us, by an act of the mind, to sever all time into the two classes, the past and the future, which are mutually exclusive and yet together comprise all of time, eternity.

The now is the partition which separates all the past from all the future; any instant of the past was once a now, any instant of the future will be a now anon, and so any instant may itself act as such a partition.

To be ...more

I love to get glimpses of the way that knowledge and science have developed through the incremental contributions of real individuals. This book gave me a bit of that insight into the development of mathematics. In fact, I think a quote from chapter 10 sums this up quite nicely...

". . . [There is a:] widespread opinion that mathematics has ...more

It's a lot to ask of a book to give a portrayal of what it means to be human.Near impossible to find so much reflected humanity in a book on mathematical principles. Tobias Dantzig gives us an elegant history of the discovery of mathematical principles. This discoveries are products of imagination, abstract reasoning, and the outposts

of thought were erected before it's territory was marginally searched.

From finger counting, to abacuses, to expanding the domain of numbers...it's a slow road. One ...more

Realizing that a pair of horses and the passage of two days are two different instances of the same concept of the number "two" required thousands of years. Proof of this, given in the book, is that some primitive tribes have different names for the numbers when referring to people, days, objects, places, etc.

The book is full of ...more

My mathematical ineptitude aside, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the to ...more

A layman's book that turned around my attitude towards math. (The actual math in it is very minimal and described in such a way that the reader feels smart. All math courses should begin with this...)

May 26, 2007
Meutia
rated it
it was amazing
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
Everybody

I found this book in the attic. It's about the history of the concept of numbers in the early civilization, and the development of mathematics. The history is told in an easy to understand and entertaining language. It evokes interest each time I open a new page. How I was really happy when this book was re-released in 2005!

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Tobias Dantzig (February 19, 1884 – August 9, 1956) was a mathematician of Baltic German and Russian American heritage, the father of George Dantzig, and the author of Number: The Language of Science (A critical survey written for the cultured non-mathematician) (1930) and Aspects of Science (New York, Macmillan, 1937).

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“It is not a story of brilliant achievement, heroic deeds, or noble sacrifice. It is a story of blind stumbling and chance discovery, of groping in the dark and refusing to admit the light. It is a story replete with obscurantism and prejudice, of sound judgement often eclipsed by loyalty to tradition, and of reason long held subservient to custom. In short, it is a human story”
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“In the history of culture the discovery of zero will always stand out as one of the greatest single achievements of the human race.”
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