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e: the Story of a Number
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e: the Story of a Number

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,844 ratings  ·  92 reviews
The story of [pi] has been told many times, both in scholarly works and in popular books. But its close relative, the number e, has fared less well: despite the central role it plays in mathematics, its history has never before been written for a general audience. The present work fills this gap. Geared to the reader with only a modest background in mathematics, the book d ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published May 24th 1998 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 1993)
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,844 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stem

e: The Story of a Number certainly lives up to its title!

The book begins with an introduction to logarithms, highlighting the relationship between the arithmetic and geometric progressions contained therein. Then we learn how the enigmatic number e was already slyly peeking out at us, way back in the day, in the realm of compound interest. Next we have a fairly decent discussion of limits and infinity. Then, after some binomial formula gymnastics, which are aided by an obliging infinite series,
Katia N
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Eli Maor wrote quite a few books about the history of Mathematics. They are wonderful in combining interesting historical insights with the maths per se, but on the level of a school program. I loved his "Infinity" book. This is as well extremely erudite and fascinating.

e - is irrational number which is the basis of the natural logarithm. Sounds daunting, but one can think of this number as a basis for measuring rate of change in many processes involving so called exponential growth (the rate o
Bill Ward
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Valerie Neer
Shelves: math, geeky-history
Everyone knows about π, the ratio 3.14159... the universal constant governing circles. The constant e is just as important if not more so, but never managed to break its way into popular culture because it's a little hard to understand just what makes it so special. This book makes a valiant effort to redress that shortcoming, by explaining the history of logarithms and calculus and how the last 400 years of mathematics developed, empowered largely by this mysterious number which, before the inv ...more
Elijah Oyekunle
I love this concise history of one of Mathematics' most interesting numbers. e is usually dominated by pi in mathematical history, but e also has an interesting story behind it. Calculus was required to explain and understand it, which brought the Bernoullis, Leibnitz, Newton, Euler and a lot of other scientific geniuses to tackle it.

Unlike pi, which has been known for thousands of years, and which was foundational to geometry, one of Mathematics' oldest branches, e has been around for a shorter
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
One hundred and thirty pages into Eli Maor’s history of Euler’s number (e), Maor experiences what can only be described as a "John Nash moment". Here he departs from his straight-laced account to describe, at length, an imagined conversation between J. S. Bach and Johann Bernoulli.

Bernoulli: That perfectly fits my love for orderly sequences of numbers.
Bach: But there is a problem. A scale constructed from these ratios consists of three basic intervals: 9:8, 10:9, and 16:15. The first two are nea
Jul 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
OK, so books on math, not going to become national best sellers by any stretch of the imagination. But any story in the field of math be it zero, 'e,' Phi, PI tells us more about that mystical, insightful language that can tell us so much about the why's and what's of our surroundings, as well as provide the more practical to suit our human needs. Math is interesting in the sense that it dictates to the mathematician not the mathematician to it to determine outcome. ie: in string theory, the mat ...more
Ben Pace
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: math-popular
Enjoyable skim through the basics of logarithms, conic sections, calculus, and various other areas of mathematics relating to e. Not a textbook, so don't read this to learn those subjects, only to glance at them. The historical aspects add a narrative element, and of course the writing is far more pleasant than a textbook too. The background given, and also the original explanations, helped me to understand some of the concepts better, so I am glad that I read it. I will only be giving it a curs ...more
Stanley Xue
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book to explore mathematics from a different perspective (recreational rather than traditional mathematics education). Even suitable if you haven't touched and been learning more maths for a while. Many of the explanations were built from first principles.

Although there was a lot of overlap initially with mathematics covered in high school cirricula (e.g. logarithms, compound interest formula, limits & Zeno's paradox, differentiation from first principles, binomial theorem/Pascal's tr
andrew y
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: learning
As said by others - picked this up wanting to understand a complex mathematical topic, got this and also an awesome historical overview of the development of the calculus and more over hundreds of years. Awesome!
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: Goodreads
Shelves: science-nature
Too. Much. Calculus. I was hoping this would be more like The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number, but it wasn't. For one thing, this book has differential equations. A lot of them. As a STEM major, I did study calculus at the university level (but not Dif Eq), but this was still hard going. What really helped get me through the book were the historical anecdotes, and the parts of the book I was able to follow well were also well-done.
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Maor's account of the place of e, the base of the natural logarithms, in the history of mathematics provides a peek inside a mathematician's brain. More connected by mathematical ideas than by chronology or the usual social, cultural, economic, or political themes taken up by historians, Maor's book opened vistas in the calculus I did not see when I first ploddingly confronted derivatives and integrals some decades ago. He thoroughly covers the differing views of Newton and Leibniz as they devel ...more
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Like its more famous cousin pi, e is an irrational number that shows up in unexpected places all over mathematics. It also has a much more recent history, not appearing on the scene until the 16th century. My favorite parts of this book were the historical anecdotes such as the competitive Bernoullis and the Nerwton-Leibniz cross-Channel calculus feud. Unfortunately, this math history text is much heavier on the math than the history, including detailed descriptions of limits, derivatives, integ ...more
Aakash Subhankar Bhowmick
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book takes you through an amazing journey of time in which you will be fascinated and humbled by the efforts which mathematician have put in to develop mathematics as it is today. The book is perfect to arouse interest in mathematics in your children, and to make them realize that more than its regular textbook form, mathematics is fun, inspiring and beautiful.
Apr 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I found this basically unreadable. It oscillated too quickly between "history" and "refresher of AP calculus" and lacked any real unifying themes. It felt very rambly. The author has a lot of facts more or less related to logarithms, or exponentials, or infinite series, and wants to share them all.
Oct 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
Maor did not do a good job at staying remotely on-topic. This would be better advertised as a history of calculus, as more time was devoted to that than to e. While the historical content of the book is certainly fascinating, it is not what I signed up for when I started reading.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can trace all of my interest, and success, in mathematics back to this book. I read it at a far too young age, and harassed my friends with my otherworldly knowledge of numbers and mathematics for years.

Eli Maor is extremely capable at distilling complex concepts into simple and intuitive explanations, and weaving the human nature of discovery into the story of this number.

e, the number, is visible so much in the world around us, and this book does an excellent job at explaining the significan
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
Absolutely brilliant. Among my favorite books. It has everything---from the infamous Newton/Leibniz controversy and the first derivation of Euler's constant from compound-interest calculations to the rectification of the logarithmic spiral and the Cauchy-Riemann equations for (complex) analytic functions. The appendix alone is nearly worth the price of the book. A true gem. Riveting and well written. Essential reading.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: math
This book is, I think, as good as it could be given its dry subject matter. The histotical portion of the book was well written and well researched, but it's not a page-turner. The math was well explained, although, I think you had better understand calculus to get much out of it. In his preface, Maor's stated goal is for the book to be "accessible to readers with only a modest background in mathematics". In that, I think he falls well short.
Quinton Baran
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I started this book many years ago, and got about half way in, and realized that I was struggling to understand the math concepts. This led me to reviewing my college algebra, something that I still have on my project list - a long term project list as it turns out. I am culling this from my current reading list for now.
Interesting enough. Best thing about the book IMO is the appendix that offers proofs for the existence of the number in its earliest form (i.e., limit of (1+1/n)^n). I always find the typical discussions of e or of that limit to be circular, so it's nice to have a from-scratch defense of the number!
Brandon Meredith
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: put-aside
I read about half this book and then put it down. It had some somewhat interesting stuff near the beginning but then started treading over some territory I’ve seen time and again, much of it only tangentially related to the title.
Dani Ollé
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great history book of mathematics which explains also the mathematical concepts themselves
Ami Iida
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: math
Aug 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the writing and the connections between mathematical topics. I was not as interested in following the many derivations/proofs.
Michele Ricci
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Finished this book in a single day. One word: phenomenal.
Aleksandra Taranov
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
The writing style was sometimes a little dry, but I found the actual material fun and interesting. I liked the balance between historical anecdotes and mathematical formulas.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's actually pretty good.

e is not as boring as people think.
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
For the average layperson, the number e is something they may vaguely remember from an intermediate high school math class, but certainly isn’t something that is as familiar to them as π. For many of those people, the math in this book might be a bit intimidating. If it discourages them from picking up this book, that would be unfortunate, because the author does a pretty good job of explaining the history of the math that involves the use of e and its importance in solving a number of difficult ...more
Moctar Bebaha
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This books is certainly one of the best books on the history of Math, Mathematicians, and numbers.
Although from the title of the book it seems that the book only concerns exponentials and logarithms, the fact is the author takes you from the first attempts of humans to understand numbers and their nature, to the discovery of irrational numbers and, later on, to transcendental numbers, the creation of imaginary numbers and the struggle to "make peace" with them. The author beautifully introduces
Dan Cohen

A good book from Eli Maor. Nearly rated 4 stars but I'm a bit of a meanie. The book is a nice mixture of history / biography and mathematics. Rather more actual mathematics than is usual for this type of book but it's well presented and, of course, the reader can skip the bits of maths wherever s/he gets bored of them (I did, quite a lot!) The author writes really well and the text is a joy to read.

For my part I would have liked more of the history / biography stuff and a little less of the math
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