Significant Figures: The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians
Without the work of mathematicians, our world would not function as it does today. All our modern technology and civilization’s advances are based on the work of mathematical geniuses throughout time. This book introduces or reacquaints readers with several of these geniuses, from Archimedes to Mandelbrot–twenty-five mathematicians, in fact. And one of the delightful aspects of this book is that the mathematicians span the globe, and even include a few women. Each is given a short biography and a much longer discussion of their pioneering mathematical discoveries, put into context and parsed so even the lay reader can grasp their importance. For example, George Boole, a reluctant schoolteacher, was also a self-taught mathematician who discovered important facets of algebra but was even better known for developing Boolean logic, which is integral to computer science. Srinivasa Ramanujan, a poor clerk in Madras, India, also self-studied mathematics and developed work in number theory and infinite series. The biographical sketches are interesting and pertinent, and there’s an entertaining introduction to each section; if the math seems overwhelming (as it sometimes may), the introductory sketches alone are entertaining and worthwhile, written with enthusiasm, humor, wit, and a clear love for the subjects.