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# A Tour of the Calculus

Were it not for the calculus, mathematicians would have no way to describe the acceleration of a motorcycle or the effect of gravity on thrown balls and distant planets, or to prove that a man could cross a room and eventually touch the opposite wall. Just how calculus makes these things possible and in doing so finds a correspondence between real numbers and the real worl
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Paperback, 331 pages

Published
January 28th 1997
by Vintage
(first published 1995)

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## Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)

1. David Berlinski has read more books than you.

2. David Berlinski is well regarded among mathematicians.

3. The motivations and concepts that support calculus as a foundational achievement of modern thought.

Let me offer this praise: Berlinski faithfully and artfully expresses what almost every math teacher misses; The motivation for creating calculus was to understand a world of vary ...more

Berlinski's writing does more to obfuscate than clarify, and wearies rather than enlightens the reader. Understanding mathematics requires selectivity and focus. Berlinski demonstrates that writing about it requires neither. Perhaps the most worthless, overwrought book I've ever suffered through.

Calculus and the concepts behind it have always been the stuff that even people formally educated in its methods find difficult to fully comprehend or explain. Yes, it works. Yes, it is very useful to solve real life issues. But some parts make sense wh ...more

As you probably discovered in school, even simple equations with two unknowns can be difficult. And at a higher level of difficulty, 5th degree polynomials can't be solved by anyone. Today the lim ...more

I know a good deal of the underpinnings of calculus, and while yes, I may now k ...more

This book changed that completely. It showed me, in good prose, the underlying theories and concepts ...more

Apr 11, 2013
Hotske
added it

The purplest prose on the planet can't obscure the beauty this book reveals.

Let's take the simplest reality, a straight line. Put a zero somewhere and negatives are on the left and positives are on the right. There are large gaps, though, say between zero and one. Now, define a pair of integers (with division in between) as a rational number. We have filled quite a bit, not the whole line, though, because the square root of 2 is not a rational number. Thence come the irrational numbers -- Dedekind's cut is one way to ...more

I would really recommend the book for people who are interested in knowing the history behind calculus, but I don't think it's a great read for people that already KNOW calculus. For example I thought it was a bit irritating towards the integral section when he discusses simple integrals. He tends to only write "integral of f(x)" rather than "integral of f(x) times dx)" or whatever variable he happens to use. While that isn't q ...more

That annoys me, because I've long regretted not learning my math better. I was

*very*good at math in my youth—making it to calculus as a sophomore in high school. Unfortunately for my progress beyond that point, I naturally think like an engineer and quickly get frustrated at what seem (to me) to be purely academic abstractions. If ...more

Stripped of all the rubbish which is passed off as "poetry", the book would have been 1/4 th its length, am article, which had a better place in the Saturday edition of a tabloid - so publis ...more

This is the second book of Berlinski's books that I have read. His style, I sense, will not appeal to everyone. His prose can approach the florid at times, and his more literary approach to investigating and explaining mathematics may not sit well with some. Still, there is something refreshing in reading a book on calculus that ...more

It starts from the very basic (defining a point, a line, numbers) and of course leads up to plenty of in-depth calculus discussion/philosophizing. It's from 1995, I found it in ...more

The writing style is great. The metaphors and historical context are on point. I hi ...more

Jun 12, 2011
Carlos
rated it
liked it
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review of another edition

Shelves:
general-science,
non-fiction

This book was quite a throwback to when I was taking calculus. Berlinski discusses all those theorems that are fed to new calculus students with the difference that he actually makes sense out of them. Although he, as any good mathematician, insists on presenting the proofs for every theorem, his discussion of the stories, both of the authors and the times, behind each of them more than make up for the proofs.

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David Berlinski is a senior fellow in the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Recent articles by Berlinski have been prominently featured in Commentary, Forbes ASAP, and the Boston Review. Two of his articles, “On the Origins of the Mind” (November 2004) and “What Brings a World into Being” (March 2001), have been anthologized in The Best American Science Writing 2005, edited by A ...more

More about David Berlinski...
Recent articles by Berlinski have been prominently featured in Commentary, Forbes ASAP, and the Boston Review. Two of his articles, “On the Origins of the Mind” (November 2004) and “What Brings a World into Being” (March 2001), have been anthologized in The Best American Science Writing 2005, edited by A ...more

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