Significant Figures: The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians

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$28.00  $26.04
Basic Books
Publish Date
6.3 X 9.4 X 1.1 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author

Ian Stewart is emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick. His recent books include Calculating the Cosmos, Significant Figures, In Pursuit of the Unknown, and Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures. He is a fellow of the Royal Society. He lives in Coventry, UK.


"Stewart folds into his biographies a broad swath of mathematics, including Euclidian and non-Euclidean geometries, set theory, calculus, algebra, and topology; readers with an affinity for math will find the material challenging and fun."
--Publishers Weekly
"In Significant Figures, Ian Stewart brings mathematics to life with intriguing accounts of twenty-five extraordinary contributors to the field. His biographical sketches blend equal parts passion--love affairs and rivalries--with insights--groundbreaking discoveries--to offer vivid, complete portraits of his subjects. By showing how even mathematical geniuses face all-too-human challenges, Stewart offers a riveting chronicle of one of humankind's loftiest endeavors."
--Paul Halpern, author The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality
"The biographies that appear here are interesting and accessible; anybody with an interest in mathematics or history would likely enjoy perusing them."--MAA Reviews
"Part advanced math lesson and part history book, Stewart's celebration of seminal mathematicians and their findings will appeal to anyone who wants to better understand the building blocks of many of today's sciences."--Booklist
"Stewart is the least modish of writers, delivering new scholarship on ancient Chinese and Indian mathematics to supplement a well-rehearsed body of knowledge about the western tradition. A prolific writer himself, Stewart is good at identifying the audiences for mathematics at different periods."--Spectator
"A text for teachers, precocious students, and intellectually curious readers unafraid to tread unfamiliar territory and learn what mad pursuits inspire mathematicians."--Kirkus Reviews
"The search for mathematical truth, no matter how abstract, is ultimately carried out by flesh-and-blood people. In this readable book, Ian Stewart makes math accessible by humanizing its greatest practitioners, simultaneously illuminating who they were and the discoveries they made. You cannot read it without being struck by admiration for the driven souls who created mathematics over the centuries."--Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
"This beautifully written assemblage of the lives and work of the world's greatest mathematicians is both humbling and inspiring. Stewart shows with his typical clarity how the power of pure thought has shaped our world for over two millennia."--J.S. Al-Khalili, OBE, Professor of Physics, University of Surrey
"Professor Ian Stewart shows us emphatically that great mathematicians have often also been public servants, political activists and expositors, not just lone geniuses or one-track minds. Mathematics for all its abstraction is a communal and human activity, and this is vividly captured in this fascinating whistlestop tour of the human lives behind the greatest mathematics in history."--Dr. Eugenia Cheng, Scientist In Residence, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, author of How to Bake Pi and Beyond Infinity
"In his latest book, master mathematics expositor Ian Stewart delivers on his catchy title with succinct summaries of twenty-five of the most influential mathematicians of all time.... Stewart provides a concise overview of what has been hot in math at different times in the discipline's history. A great way for an outsider to get a sense of the huge historical arc of mathematical discoveries that has led to the mathematics--and the world--of today. I recommend it."--Keith Devlin, Stanford University, author of The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution and Finding Fibonacci: The Quest to Rediscover the Forgotten Mathematical Genius Who Changed the World
"One of the stated goals of this book is to dispel the idea that mathematicians are boring, and this delightful title goes a long way toward that aim."--Library Journal
"Stewart has written a worthy successor to Bell's far-from-outdated classic [Men of Mathematics]-- one that may in time incline an even greater number of young readers to pursue careers in mathematics. Meanwhile, working professionals curious about the lesser-known masters profiled in the book, yet lacking the time or inclination to digest an entire biography, will find Significant Figures both informative and entertaining."--SIAM News
"Mathematics is the universal language, but some of its most prominent practitioners are forgotten figures--even though they've shaped our modern world. Significant Figures walks through the lives and work of 25 great mathematicians, from Archimedes to William Thurston. It's a great primer for those interested in where our universal language of numbers comes from."--Popular Mechanics