Future historians trying to write the history of the mathematics of our time are likely to run into a really serious difficulty: a great deal of our informal conversation about mathematical ideas (and probably also a good deal of formal conversation as well) goes on in electronic form, as email. It is unlikely to be preserved.
Not so for the greats of the past. Henri Poincaré, like most mathematicians of his time, engaged in extensive correspondence about all sorts of things. This volume collects a part of this correspondence, that which involved physicists, chemists, and engineers. Some of Poincaré's counterparts here are well known (Becquerel, both Curies, Lord Kelvin), but others will be known only to specialist historians.
The editors present letters both to and from Poincaré, with (mostly brief, but usually sufficient) annotations. They also include several related "documents divers," including many letters to the Nobel committee recommending Poincaré for the physics prize.
Like most volumes of this kind, this is primary source material for historians (in this case, of science and of mathematics), and should be considered for acquisition by research libraries. Most individuals will find the price prohibitive.
Fernando Q. Gouvêa is Carter Professor of Mathematics at Colby College and the editor of MAA Reviews.