loading, one second please...

Men Of Mathematics

Reviewing: Touchstone Books Men Of Mathematics  |  Rating:
By pdcd on
Badge: Publisher | Level: 7 | Other Entertainment Expertise:

Men of Mathematics by Eric Temple Bell is a collection of short biographies about more than 30 famous mathematicians from Ancient Greece to the early 20th century.

As the book was written in the 1930s, it doesn't contain information about any mathematicians from the past 80 years or so. This actually adds to the charm of the book. It's interesting to see what mathematicians were held in high historic regard then, especially contemporary ones, and how they've stood the test of time. Even someone unfamiliar with higher mathematics will recognize Isaac Newton and Archimedes. Those who have studied some math will know most of the names, like Descartes, Euler, Laplace, and Galois. And then there are some that even those with degrees in mathematics may not recognize now like Kronecker and Lobatchewsky.

While each biography is not comprehensive, it's a great collection that gives you insight into the early lives of the mathematicians, their inspiration, their work, and their legacies. There are some critics of the book that say that many of the stories are embellished in some ways, but for the most part the biographies are accurate.

Bell has a very distinct, often terse, writing style that can take some getting used to. This could be because he is Scottish, or because the book was written so long ago, but the modern American reader may have some difficulty with the pacing and cadence of Bell's words.

Men of Mathematics has also been highly influential to now-famous mathematicians, such as John Nash, who was supposedly inspired by the chapter on Fermat.

This book is a great read for anyone interested in mathematics. There is some discussion of mathematical subjects in the text, but it's not overwhelming. Even an armchair mathematician would enjoy it. It presents some unique look at both well known and not so well known names in the history of mathematics and how they influenced contemporary and future generations.