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Technology and Mathematics

Sven Ove Hansson, editor
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Philosophy of Engineering and Technology
[Reviewed by
Dennis Gordon
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Since it really does cover everything from counting change to climate change, it is not just the use of mathematics in highfalutin scientific domains such as climate modeling or fundamental particle physics, but also includes the utility of basic arithmetic for counting sheep.
                                                            Phil Wilson (one of the authors)
In spite of the practical and historical importance, there has not been much coverage of the connections between mathematics and its related technology – mostly computers. As the promotional notes on the back cover proudly proclaim, “This volume is the first extensive study of the historical and philosophical connections between technology and mathematics.”  One may not often ponder the philosophy of technology, but the authors have superbly considered the matter.
The good, the bad, and even the ugly side of mathematics are all presented in these pages with no attempt made to sanitize or whitewash the misdeeds. We read of the brilliance of the works of Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace to the evil, “… Nazi campaign for an intuitive ‘German’ form of mathematics that would replace the more abstract and rigorous ‘Jewish’ mathematics.” The mathematician Ludwig Bieberbach and the physics Nobel laureate Phillip Lenard both joined the Nazi party. Along with other horrors these are all covered in a chapter called The Rise and Fall of the Anti-Mathematical Movement. I wish this chapter were longer so we could learn even more from our own dark moments of history, however, there is a generous supply of references in both English and German. Mathematicians, apparently, are as human as the rest of us.
The format of the book consists of four parts with Part I being a brief introduction, Part II is entitled The Historical Connection, part III is Technology in Mathematics followed by Part IV which is Mathematics in Technology. Except for the introduction all of the other parts are divided into several chapters which are written by various authors, and all chapters save for the introduction include an extensive list of both print and internet references. As far as purchasing this magnificent book I would suggest shopping carefully as I have noticed a rather wide range of prices.
In spite of having studied chemistry (Wayne State University and The University of Kansas) and enjoying a professional career in both academic and industrial research, Dennis Gordon's greatest personal interest in science is mathematics. Now retired, he is a voracious reader, and with his wife Sally, they enjoy traveling in their sports car, bluegrass music, and the wonders of Wisconsin. Dennis may be contacted at [email protected]

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.