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John Derbyshire

David Berlinski

Infinite Ascent

Infinite Ascent: a short history of mathematics by David Berlinski takes the reader through ten significant topics in the development of mathematics. Starting with the Greeks and Euclidean geometry, Berlinski goes on to describe the origins of complex numbers, calculus and analytic geometry. He then looks at some of the mathematics which originated in the nineteeth centrury - group theory, noneuclidean geometry and set theory - and this leads up to Gödel's incompleteness theorem. The final chapter is a look at some of the current areas of mathematical research.

The trouble is that I'm not entirely sure who the book is for. Although it is claimed to be aimed at the novice, I'm not convinced that writing in a somewhat quirky style is the way to achieve this - my feeling is that it's more likely to confuse the uninitiated. Those with more experience of the subject are unlikely to find much which is new to them, although they might enjoy the book as a bit of light reading. I think that the most suitable reaership is those who are currently studying the subjects involved - advanced school students or beginning undergraduates - who will benefit from learning a bit of the history of the subject and from a different 'take' on what they are studying.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews