Reviews elsewhere on the web:
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. info
Hardcover 224 pages  
ISBN: 067964234X
Salesrank: 1572477
Weight:0.7 lbs
Published: 2005 Modern Library
Amazon price $3.94
Marketplace:New from $3.93:Used from $0.25
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Hardcover 192 pages  
ISBN: 0297848518
Salesrank: 422925
Weight:0.71 lbs
Published: 2006 W&N
Marketplace:New from £39.55:Used from £0.01
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Hardcover 224 pages  
ISBN: 067964234X
Salesrank: 926680
Weight:0.7 lbs
Published: 2005 Modern Library
Amazon price CDN$ 27.24
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 27.24:Used from CDN$ 0.01
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Product Description
In Infinite Ascent, David Berlinski, the acclaimed author of The Advent of the Algorithm, A Tour of the Calculus, and Newton’s Gift, tells the story of mathematics, bringing to life with wit, elegance, and deep insight a 2,500-year-long intellectual adventure.

Berlinski focuses on the ten most important breakthroughs in mathematical history–and the men behind them. Here are Pythagoras, intoxicated by the mystical significance of numbers; Euclid, who gave the world the very idea of a proof; Leibniz and Newton, co-discoverers of the calculus; Cantor, master of the infinite; and Gödel, who in one magnificent proof placed everything in doubt.

The elaboration of mathematical knowledge has meant nothing less than the unfolding of human consciousness itself. With his unmatched ability to make abstract ideas concrete and approachable, Berlinski both tells an engrossing tale and introduces us to the full power of what surely ranks as one of the greatest of all human endeavors.