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The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics

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4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,788 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Math’s infinite mysteries and beauty unfold in this follow-up to the best-selling The Science Book. Beginning millions of years ago with ancient “ant odometers” and moving through time to our modern-day quest for new dimensions, it covers 250 milestones in mathematical history. Among the numerous delights readers will learn about as they dip into this inviting anthology: c ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Sterling (first published 2009)
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4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,788 ratings  ·  95 reviews

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Jun 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
The first thing I did when I picked up this book was look up Kovalevskaya in the index. As in Sofia Kovalevksaya, mathematical genius and pioneering female mathematician and academician of the 19th century. And there she was, a full page on one of my heroes. Weierstrass's unsung research partner. The first woman in Europe to obtain a doctorate in mathematics and only the third female full professor. This article and the article on Emmy Noether (a female mathematical genius of even higher stature ...more
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
I found the book too much of a tease, where it would explain the most intuitive concepts that didn't need to be explained and then skip over the more interesting complex things. Introducing the most notable mathematical contributions is a great idea, but two hundred is far too many to remember or appreciate given the limited text.
Jim Leckband
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
The target audiences for these books must be very selective, but I think they have a strategy that enables them to sell more of them than they would by the subject and writing itself. If this was a book of the author writing on the greatest hits of mathematics with a page devoted to each and where the reader needs to be almost 90% of the way there in terms of being able to understand the subject matter at any level - then very few copies would be sold. The mathematics described in this book are ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were a few quirks in the presentation of this book that annoyed me but might not be noticed by anyone else.

The structure of the book is to have 3 or 4 paragraphs that explain discuss introduce mention a favorite topic of the author on the left page and an illustrative picture on the right. Each picture has an explanatory blurb at the bottom of the left page. Here is the annoyance: Most of the time the blurb simply repeated a few sentences from the 3 or 4 paragraphs of text above. I
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author has set a big goal for this book: discussing different mathematical breakthroughs from B.C up to 2007. It is hard to briefly describe them and make it interesting for the general public, but the book is delivering it.

It is very interesting how the author decided to attach an image to every aspect. You will find everything from paintings, graphs, photos, drawings. I consider that the images for each topic are so good and they just give so much more to the text-description. With this b
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After 1 year, 1 week and a lot of toilet visits it is finally finished. :)

I'm very glad I bought it. I found it very interesting.

The writer doesn't always succeed to explain the complex matter into terms I understood, but most of the time he does. And it doesn't always stick to the theories, often it just tells about the scientists behind the science, the times they lived in, what practical fields it is used in, why it is important, ...

You do not have to have a scientific background to like th
Eric Hamilton
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
More of a history book than a useful dive into actual math topics. Would have been more interesting if each topic was a few pages long (and less topics overall) - with each topic making an attempt to describe and/or teach the reader about the topic. Instead every page is a brief overview of the topic and how it helped our lives - which is interesting, but not interesting enough for a book of this size.
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fantastic collection of topics and beautiful illustrations. Warning: If you are looking for a book that gives in-depth explanations of mathematical concepts, this isn't for you: each topic is only given a page of rather large text, so the explanations are often shallow.
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Math book is quite interesting although Im not sure whether this is more of a Math or History book, but it was still very fun to read and I learned a lot more about Euler and other famous mathematicians. The book flows very nicely and the pictures really help to grasp strange concepts that would otherwise be very confusing. It is fun to read for anyone who has an interest in math, history or the sciences. The book covers thousands of years of the history of math and goes back past the babylo ...more
Dec 11, 2017 rated it liked it
As previously stated, introducing the most notable mathematical theories and contributions in this format is a great and fun idea, however, I did find quite a few factual errors in the texts, which weren't exactly hard for anybody to look up, giving the impression that it was written without much care, unprofessional. Still it's a nice and comprehensive overview of the important mathematical discoveries in chronological order, and you can use it to find something new that interests you and go in ...more
Joshua Zhou
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I bought the book in hope that it may stimulate my math nerses. The book turned out to be a collection of mathematical anecdotes with little actual food of thought.
Perhaps it can made you "know a lot" in terms of making a conversation. But I think it is of little help if someone wants to become an active thinker.
Jen Cihon
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book blew my mind. A history of all the important people and discoveries in math. I was a math major so I like math. Some of the discoveries are just so interesting and amazing. It's 516 pages but half of it is pictures of the people etc so a quick read.
Anthony Faber
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
One page essays on 232 mathematical things arranged chronologically. Sometimes interesting, but I don't think a person without a good math background will get much out of it and there wasn't enough detail in the things that I didn't know.
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: maths
Overall a very well written and interesting book.
It is especially interesting in the middle however I think that too many of the articles are about maths textbooks for the first few hundred pages, and there are too many fractals from 1900 onwards.
Still very easy to read though.
Moloy De
Feb 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Rayfes Mondal
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
The coverage of some milestones felt way too light but that's intentional. If you're interested in a deeper dive there are references.
Mengda Liu
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting introduction to math history. A couple of topics really interests me. Doesn’t help you build an understand of math knowledge structure, but a good teaser that drives me to learn more.
David Tagliaferri
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Perfect book for next to the toilet.
Eco Imp
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful walk through mathematical history. The plates are stunning.

I see myself using this book as a hook to capture student interest in math class.
Liam Cronan
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ideal book for anyone interested in the history of mathematics, statistics, or economics. Pickover gives each of the 250 "Milestones" a concise yet detailed overview. He gives the reader not just the facts but also the significance that each plays in our world today, and uses each one to build on the last. His sections on Fermat and Gauss were some most intriguing, but the entire book makes for a fast-paced read despite being a seemingly dry topic. My one complaint would be that sections felt a ...more
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mathematics
I thought this was simply a wonderful book. This is the first book I've ready by Clifford Pickover and seeing that he has written many others I think I will go track some of those down. This book basically covers the history of Mathematics in a very concise, but thoughtful way.

Although the book is not a complete history, then again 500 pages would be barely enough to cover a complete history, but "The Math Book" covers some essential points. Pickover tried to do a couple of things when he wrote
Cosmic Jae
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you want to know some fascinating concepts about math without knowing too much of the details, then this book is for you. For example, magic squares where horizontally, vertically, and diagonally all the numbers added up will be the same. Also the fascinating thing about amiable numbers such as 220 and 284. There is also a short chapter on the mathematical game puzzle on the Tower of Hanoi. After I read the book, I had so many lively conversations with my family! I couldn’t stop thinking abou ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mathematics, science
Following a sort of chronological ordering from the very ancient to the present, each two page spread involves some curious aspect of mathematical significance, with a decidedly curious bent toward a particular philosophical stance on the matter of whether mathematics is created or discovered. Pickover seems to lean toward the discovery side of this argument, which in no way lessens the way he goes from a desert ant that has some method of "counting" its steps (which begs the question of how an ...more
Mikko Karvonen
Sep 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
The Math Book is basically a sweeping history of mathematics told through 250 key milestones. It does not even try to be detailed or all-encompassing, but aims to track the way and rate mathematics has developed over the millenia.

Each subject has been devoted one page of text and one more or less related full-colour image on the opposite page. The result is a visually attractive encyclopedia that is easy to follow. Pickover's enthusiastic, and for the most part layman-friendly writing completes
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is the perfect one to reside on the coffee table of math department lounges, as it is possible to open it to any page and use the contents to begin a mathematical conversation. All the subject matter is presented at a level that all professional mathematicians will understand and people with a high school education that included mathematics can easily understand the majority of the topics. For each of the subjects, one page is devoted to a brief explanation and the next contains a colo ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
Interesting tidbits with no depth. It's more encyclopedic, if anything.

Use as a quick reference, if you must read it.
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
The subtitle of this book is; "From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics". That about says sit all. This is a really cool encyclopedia-like book with great images and one-page anecdote about math, from across time. They range from cicada's calculating prime numbers, to the Infinite Monkey Theorem to how they solved Checkers. I used it like a nightly devotional, reading one or two stories every night. (probably why it took me 2 years to finish).

One intere
Sep 15, 2015 rated it liked it
On first impression, this book is a beautifully illustrated, hard colder math book with acute glimpses into discoveries in mathematics. I've always wanted to write a similar such book! Upon reading it, I found myself looking it a lot less than I wanted to.

Too often were illustrations lazily chosen and resembled clipart. A significant number of entries were references to math texts, which were important, but nowhere nearly as interesting as other findings or quandaries in math.

There was a heavy
Brian Ryer
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is not so much the kind of book that you read cover to cover but more the sort of book you want to have lying around wherever you work (or relax if you're a math geek) as picking it up and flipping it open presents you with a short article on one little bit of the landscape of the magnificent multi-peaked mountain of knowledge called mathematics. You want to dip into it frequently.

For me this short figurative jaunt on the math highlands works as a general purpose inspirational nudge. Prime
Sep 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Do you like Math? Do you like History? Do you like Math History?

If the answer to any of the above was "no", then this is a book with a serious chance of changing your mind.

This book is essentially a highlight reel of math history. With a quick page-long summary (coupled with some interesting art), the author briefly explains some mathematical development, how it happened, who did it, and occasionally an amusing little side note to the history as well.

The topics covered range from the fairly well
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Clifford A. Pickover is an American author, editor, and columnist in the fields of science, mathematics, and science fiction, and is employed at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York.

He received his Ph.D. in 1982 from Yale University's Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, where he conducted research on X-ray scattering and protein structure. Pickover graduated

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“For those of you who are about to embark on reading The Math Book from cover to cover, look for the connections, gaze in awe at the evolution of ideas, and sail on the shoreless sea of imagination.” 1 likes
“Often, simply knowing the answer is the largest hurdle to overcome when formulating a proof.” 0 likes
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