The story of numbers is a rich, sweeping history that shows how our mathematical achievements contributed to the greatest innovations of civilization. Calvin Clawson, acclaimed author of Conquering Math Phobia, weaves a story of numbers that spans thousands of years. As Clawson so clearly shows, numbers are not only an intrinsic and essential thread in our modern lives, but have always been an integral part of the human psyche – knit into the very fabric of our identity as humans. Clawson travels back through time to the roots of the history of numbers. In exploring early human fascination with numbers, he unearths the clay beads, knotted ropes, and tablets used by our ancestors as counting tools. He then investigates how numeric symbols and concepts developed uniquely and independently in Meso-America, China, and Egypt. As he persuasively argues, the mathematical concepts that arose and flourished in the ancient world enabled the creation of architectural masterpieces as well as the establishment of vast trade networks. Continuing the journey, Clawson brings us to the elegant logic of numbers that soon came to distinguish itself as a discipline and the language of science. From the concepts of infinity contemplated by the Greeks to the complex numbers that are indispensable to scientists on the cutting edge of research today, Clawson breathes life and meaning into the history of great mathematical mysteries and problems. In this spirit of inquiry, he explores, in their times and places, the discovery of numbers that lie outside the province of counting, including irrational numbers, transcendentals, complex numbers, and the enormous transfinite numbers. The personalities and the creative feats surrounding each mathematical invention come alive vividly in Clawson’s lucid prose. In this work of breathtaking scope, Clawson guides us through the wonders of numbers and illustrates their monumental impact on civilization.
Get recommended reads, deals, and more from Basic Books