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A History of Pi Paperback – 31 Dec 1976

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Press; 3rd edition edition (31 Dec. 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312381859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312381851
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.4 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 321,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Synopsis

Documents the calculation, numerical value, and use of the ratio from 2000 B.C. to the modern computer age, detailing social conditions in eras when progress was made.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By derek a on 21 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
There are three things to say about this book:
1. It is a reprint of a book first published in 1974, ie before the personal-computer age got going; it thus covers the history of pi only up to about 30 years ago. But this does not detract very much from the book as all that has happened (I think) since the advent of powerful computers is that pi has been calculated to a lot more decimal places.
2. The author - someone who has an interest in history as well as mathematics - is very polemical in his views, calling the Romans "thugs" because of their disregard for culture, and taking a hard line on the Church and Communism in relation to their lack of openness towards science and the discussion of new ideas. Readers should be prepared for more than just a mathematical treatise.
3. I am a maths graduate (of many years ago) and was able to follow most of the mathematical proofs and calculations in the book, athough it seemed to me that there were some typographical errors in the maths that at times made the logic hard to follow (or was it just me??).

Overall, though, if you want a fairly easy read of a good description of the history of the discovery of pi and the work done over the centuries trying to discern its value, this book is worth having.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 May 1998
Format: Paperback
Dr. Beckmann presents a good overview for the experimenter/historian on the nature of this transcendental number.From the Early Greeks to the computer age he gives a good historical example of how PI has been derived. A little lacking on the computer age, he presents a good overview for beginning students.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Sept. 1999
Format: Paperback
Dr. Petr Beckmann was never one to mince words. He quotes a biblical passage that strongly implies that pi equals 3, and while he is never disrespectful to the Bible, he does mock the tortured attempts of some fundamentalists to reconcile this passage with the actual value of pi.
He also mocks the Indiana State Legislature (which, in 1897, nearly passed a law that set the value of pi at about 9.23), and Theodore Heisel (who, in 1931, wrote a mathematical treatise that ignored 4000 years of progress in determining pi).

But he praises Archimedes and Newton, among others, for their heroic and quiet progress in determining the value and application of pi. And, sadly, he concludes that the Heisels of the world are more numerous than the Archimedes.

Great book. But it must be read with an open mind.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Sept. 1997
Format: Paperback
Since I'm somewhat of a fan of books that cover the history of science and math, I had to buy this one when I saw it. In the preface, the author notes that since he is neither a mathematician nor a historian he is the perfect one to write this book. It turns out that both his math and his history and leave much to be desired.
Regarding mathematical proofs, Beckmann made a concious decision to ply the middle ground between mere hand-waving and totally rigorous proofs. The end result is a scattering of proofs that are neither easy enough to simply read and understand, nor detailed enough to follow to completion.
Petr Beckmann's treatment of history gives the impression that the world has been populated by only two classes of inhabitants: the evil and barbaric (Romans, Christians, Soviets) or the enlightened (Greeks, Chinese, English). His loathing for the Romans is particularly intense, and distracting to the extreme, especially since he takes random swipes at them throughout the entire first half of the book.
There are interesting tidbits scattered throughout the book, but most of these can be gleaned from other history of math books. Much of the book is also dated, such as his treatment of the four-color problem, which was proven recently. This can be forgiven, since the book is over twenty years old, but it does reduce its value as a read even lower than its minimal initial level.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 26 April 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The thing I really liked about the book was the quite personal style of the author. This actually made the book more compelling than any strait-jacketed attempt at supposed objectivity.
Whilst some of the Mathematical examples were demanding for someone like me, I found that you could skip over the detail, having caught the gist and this didn't spoil the book at all.
The one disappointment was a secondary reference that was used that ended up saying the exact opposite to the original author/text referred to. The suggestion was that al-Ghazzali said that Science causes someone to lose their religion when in fact the original reference which I've read in both the original Arabic and its translated English from 'The Refutation of the Philosophers' actually condemns the religious ignaramouses who through their appalling insistence on ignorance become a harm for their religion and can be a means of putting rational people off from religion. The example given in the original refers to Eclipses but could equally apply to other clearly established facts.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 May 1997
Format: Paperback
This book sheds a whole new light on the history of mathematics. A must read for anyone interested in math. Uses pi to hold the book from meandering through too much unrelated information. From high school age to retired, a marvelously written account of the origins of numbers. The book's best attribute is Dr. Beckman wit which keeps your interest throughout, regardless of the topic.
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