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Kurt Gödel: Das Album/The Album

Karl Sigmund, John Dawson, and Kurt Mühlberger
Vieweg, distributed by the American Mathematical Society
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Fernando Q. Gouvêa
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2006 is Kurt Gödel's centenary year, and this book is a worthy way to celebrate. Based on the catalog for a Gödel exhibit, this "album" contains a wealth of photographs and documents that illustrate the life and ideas of one of the most important mathematicians of the twentieth century. As the title indicates, this is an album: a collection of images, of people, places, and texts, with captions in German and English.

There are all sorts of neat things here. Many photographs of Gödel are included, one of which is described as a rare image of the man without his glasses. On page 19, there is a high school report card, in which the grades are the highest possible ("sehr gut") on every subject but one. The one exception, of course, is mathematics, in which his grade is a mere "gut". There are many photos of Gödel's contemporaries, including many of the members of the "Vienna Circle." There is even a note, by the director of the Institute for Advanced Study, in which he decides that the speakers at Gödel's funeral should discuss his work on set theory and on logic, but not his "minor" contribution to general relativity.

Most of the documents are well reproduced, but two provisos should be noted. First, the images are rather small; I kept wishing this were a "coffee-table book" instead of a regular size volume. Second, most of the texts that are reproduced here are in German, and the translations to English are not complete: usually only the crucial phrases are translated. (The same is true of the documents in English: only the crucial parts appear in the German text.)

This book makes a great supplement to a full-scale biography of Gödel (the best is Logical Dillemas, by John W. Dawson, Jr.) and to the Collected Works. Anyone interested in Gödel's life and work will want to have a copy.

Fernando Q. Gouvêa is professor of mathematics at Colby College in Waterville, ME. He is also the editor of MAA Reviews.

The table of contents is not available.