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Mathematics With Love: The Courtship Correspondence of Barnes Wallis, Inventor of the Bouncing Bomb (Macmillan Science) Hardcover – 20 Dec 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition. edition (20 Dec. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403944989
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403944986
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 917,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'In place of poetry and roses, engineer Barnes Wallis wooed his lady-love with trigonometry and calculus - and won her heart. A charming and unique correspondence from the human side of mathematics.'- Professor Ian Stewart, author of Math Hysteria and Flatterland

'What a lovely book, reminiscent of Nevile Shute's novels. The mixture of maths and suppressed emotion is warm, touching and rather improbable. Here we meet neither the lovable bumbling genius of Paul Brickhill's book The Dam Busters and Michael Redgrave's portrayal in the film, nor the stubborn and difficult man that Wallis could be at the drawing board, but a third man, a shy, loving teacher prepared to go to tremendous lengths for the girl he falls in love with.' - Adam Hart-Davis, author of What the Past Did for Us

'The surprise hit of the year so far! I approached this book with trepidation, but found it absolutely delightful...I don't know why this book is so effective. It really shouldn't be. No really. But it is.' - Brian Clegg, author of Infinity

'This delightful book is...a story with many different attractions: the careful depiction of English life in the 1920s; the slowly developing romance between two contrasting but complementary people; the sweet naivete, to our ears, of their writing; and the quality of the mathematics teaching. It must be a unique courtship and one which deeply unites intellect and feeling.' - New Humanist

'a fascinating episode in the life of a most unusual man...this biography is a fitting tribute to a man to whom our country, and indeed the world, owes a great deal.' - Sir Patrick Moore, Times Higher Education Supplement

'A lovely, charming book, skilfully and unobtrusively narrated.' - The Mathematical Gazette

Book Description

How a British war hero used mathematics to woo and win the girl

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anthony M. Knight on 16 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it was first published and am amazed that no one has seen fit to write a review. It is an unusual book, written with much skill and affection by the daughter of one of Britain's greatest and well known engineers. It is the story of how Barnes Wallis struggles and succeeds in winning the affection and love of a much younger woman in an era when such a relationship was actively discouraged. The only way in which he was able to do this was via letters, in which he coached and taught his future wife the complexities of advanced mathematics and physics to enable her to pass her examinations for university entrance. His dogged persistence and gentle charm together with his undoubted talent for teaching won over the stubborn opposition of his future father-in-law who grew to admire and respect his daughter's choice of husband.
It is a delightful book that intersperses complex subjects with human emotions and one that has a happy ending. Wallis gained a reputation for toughness and arrogance by those who did not really know him. This book reveals the gentle, shy but determined side of his character as well as his obvious intellectual talent.
I wish it had been available to read when I was taught calculus because I would have understood it so much better.

Tony Knight
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely Delightful Writing from a Time Long Gone 7 July 2005
By John Matlock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you watch the History Channel very much you will inevitably see a film clip of a rotating, garbage can looking, device being dropped from an airplane and see it skipping across the water. This was the bomb invented by Barnes Wallis to take out the Ruhr dams in Germany.

On April 23rd, 1922 Barnes met Molly. They began to write to each other, at her father's insistence they could only correspond if he used the letters to teach her mathematics. So he taught her calculus.

He proposed on Thursday December 21st 1922. She accepted on Friday September 12th 1924. They married April 23rd 1925. They were married for fifty years.

This is an absolutely delightful book from a time long past. I can only imagine if I told my daughter that her boyfriend could only correspond with her if he were using the letters to teach mathematics.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A real gem. 10 April 2010
By Bruce Oksol - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have said this many, many times: the best writers are the English, the Irish and the Scots, not necessarily in that order.

I have just come across another gem. "Mathematics with Love: The Courtship Correspondence of Barnes Wallis, Inventor of the Bouncing Bomb" is the story and almost complete correspondence between Barnes Wallace and the love of his life, Molly Bloxam. It was "written" by one of their children, Mary Stopes-Roe, who was trained as a historian and psychologist. She worked for many years at the University of Birmingham where she studied parent-child interactions with families of Asian and British ethnic origin. While archiving her family's papers, she came across the courtship correspondence of her parents.

It is an incredible story and absolutely delightful.

At 17, Molly was on her way to university in London to study science and was struggling with math and physics. Her suitor was a 35-year-old shy man from England who had accepted a teaching job in Switzerland. From there, through their daily correspondence, he taught her math.

It is delightful to read the English phrases, to read the descriptions of university and Switzerland, to experience vicariously what was happening to two people between the end of World War I and leading up to World War II.

Most interesting is to see their feelings change for each other through the letters over time. At the outset he had fallen in love with her but was too shy to even say good-bye (he stood her up and left England without following through on his promise to say good-bye in person). For whatever reason, based on only one or two personal visits with him when the families visited, she took up correspondence with him. Perhaps he was only a sounding board for her in the beginning. But from there it developed into a full-fledged love affair.

So, I've started reading it. As one who loves math, journals, diaries, stories of love affairs, this is a real, real gem.

I see this book is available through Amazon resellers for $48. I got my redundant (and absolutely perfect condition with dust jacket) for $15.98, at the local Half-Price Bookstore in San Antonio.
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