August 19, 2009
Mathematics in Historical Context
419 pp., hardcover, 2009. Series: MAA Spectrum
What events forced Leonhard Euler’s move in 1766 from Berlin back to St. Petersburg? What was Newton’s role in running the Mint? How did Jean-Baptiste Fourier react to his calculus teacher, Joseph Louis Lagrange? This book describes the world around important mathematicians of the past and explores the complex interactions of mathematics, mathematicians, and society. It takes the reader on a grand tour of history, from ancient Egypt to the twentieth century, to show how mathematicians and mathematics have been affected by the outside world, and how the outside world was affected by mathematics and mathematicians.
Part biography, part mathematics, and part history, this book offers the layperson and the professional the background to better understand mathematics and the history of mathematics.
• An ideal addition to a history of mathematics course.
• Moves from the ancient world to the Second World War.
• Conveys how famous mathematical figures such as Archimedes and Newton influenced, and were affected by, political events, cultural developments, and artistic conventions of their time.
Excerpt (p. 265):
Lagrange taught calculus, but one of his students complained that he spoke too softly with too thick an accent, which made little difference since most of the students were incapable of appreciating his work anyway. The critic was Jean-Baptiste Fourier (March 21, 1768-May 16, 1830), whose life suffered from an excess of luck, both good and bad. Fourier arrived in Paris on the eve of the Revolution; shortly thereafter, his school closed. He presented a paper on finding bounds on the roots of an algebraic equation, which was lost; consequently the theorem was rediscovered by Jacques Charles François Sturm (September 29, 1803-December 18, 1855) and named after the latter. During the Terror, Fourier defended some of those accused by the Committee for Public Safety, and was imprisoned. He appealed to Robespierre, but his appeal was rejected and Fourier would have been executed. Fortunately Robespierre fell and Fourier was released.
Introduction 1. The Ancient World 2. The Classical World 3. China and India 4. The Islamic World 5. The Middle Ages 6. Renaissance and Reformation 7. Early Modern Europe 8. The Eighteenth Century 9. The Nineteenth Century 10. The United States 11. The Modern World. Epilog. Bibliography. Figure Citations. Index.
About the Author:
Jeff Suzuki (Brooklyn College) received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Boston University. The author of A History of Mathematics (2002), Suzuki won the MAA's Carl B. Allendoerfer Award in 2006 for his article "The Lost Calculus: Tangency and Optimization without Limits" (Mathematics Magazine, 2005).
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MAA Member Price: $46.95