A History of Mathematics: From Mesopotamia to Modernity, Luke Hodgkin, 2005, 281 pp., $89.50. ISBN 0-19-852937-6, Oxford University Press, Oxford, http://www.oup.com
Luke Hodgkin has written a general history of mathematics from ancient times to contemporary times, from Euclid to Wiles in less than 300 pages. When compared with many other general histories, Hodgkin's work places more emphasis on Chinese mathematics, the contribution of Islam, and twentieth century mathematics. Hence, to stay within 300 pages, there is less emphasis on other topics.
The author's style is refreshing, sometimes opinionated. This style will encourage students to ask questions, seek answers, and form their own views. You get a sense that the history of mathematics is alive with opinions and still remains a fertile area for research. The author is in full flight when, in the last main chapter, “ A chaotic end?”, he attacks the ways in which the media represent mathematics and mathematicians.
Each chapter is provided with mathematical exercises and their accompanying solutions. There are no suggested essay topics given and instructors will have to provide their own. An extensive bibliography is supplied. I will use this bibliography to strengthen the library collection my own university.
The publisher has produced a book that looks good. The hardback edition is well bound. I wonder how the narrow margins will work in a paperback edition.
Hodgkin's History would be an excellent addition to any university library. It would be a useful reference for a teacher of the history of mathematics to have in the office. Students will appreciate this book being on the reading list for a course on the history of mathematics. And, for the right person, it would be a nice gift.
T. M. Mills,Professor of Mathematics, La Trobe University, Australia