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"e", The Story of a Number Paperback – 24 May 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New edition edition (24 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691058547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691058542
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 829,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Amazon Review

e: The Story of a Number begins by describing the transition in mathematics brought about by the introduction of the microchip. Until about 1975, logarithms were every scientist's best friend. They were the basis of the slide rule that was the totemic wand of the trade and were listed in the huge books that were consulted in every library. Then handheld calculators arrived, and within a few years slide rules were museum pieces.

But e remains, the centre of the natural logarithmic function and of calculus. Eli Maor's book is the only more or less popular account of the history of this universal constant. Maor gives human faces to fundamental mathematics, as in his fantasia of a meeting between Johann Bernoulli and JS Bach. e: The Story of a Number would be an excellent choice for a any student of trigonometry or calculus. --Mary Ellen Curtin

Review


Honorable Mention for the 1994 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Mathematics, Association of American Publishers


"This is a gently paced, elegantly composed book, and it will bring its readers much pleasure.... Maor has written an excellent book that should be in every public and school library."--Ian Stewart, New Scientist



"Maor wonderfully tells the story of e. The chronological history allows excursions into the lives of people involved with the development of this fascinating number. Maor hangs his story on a string of people stretching from Archimedes to David Hilbert. And by presenting mathematics in terms of the humans who produced it, he places the subject where it belongs--squarely in the centre of the humanities."--Jerry P. King, Nature



"Maor has succeeded in writing a short, readable mathematical story. He has interspersed a variety of anecdotes, excursions, and essays to lighten the flow.... [The book] is like the voyages of Columbus as told by the first mate."--Peter Borwein, Science



"Maor attempts to give the irrational number e its rightful standing alongside pi as a fundamental constant in science and nature; he succeeds very well.... Maor writes so that both mathematical newcomers and long-time professionals alike can thoroughly enjoy his book, learn something new, and witness the ubiquity of mathematical ideas in Western culture."--Choice



"It can be recommended to readers who want to learn about mathematics and its history, who want to be inspired and who want to understand important mathematical ideas more deeply."--EMS Newsletter


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
All students who have undertaken a calculus course know that "e" is a very important number and on eof the cornerstones of modern mathematics; but very few students - I am afraid - know its fascinating story. That's why Eli Maor decided to fill this gap and to write his book on the story of "e": he starts with the invention of logarithms by the Scottish nobleman John Napier and guides the reader in a wonderful voyage through the mathematical discoveries of the last four centuries. In this voyage, the interested reader can meet real giants of mathematics such as Newton, Euler and the Bernoullis; he can study curious mathematical curves such as the logarithmic spiral and the catenary; he can understand how calculus was born and how it developed in the minds of the great mathematicians of the 17th Century. The book is noteworthy because of the crystal-clear mathematical accuracy with which Eli Maor explains the facts of his story; therefore a maths background is necessary to enjoy reading this book. Finally, eli Maor makes his book even more interesting by adding some "capsules" on various subjects, such as the importance of hyperbolic functions, the relationship between music and maths, the beauty of the decorative patterns that use the logarithmic spiral. A book that should be in the library of every maths-loving person.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Paul Carson on 9 July 2001
Format: Paperback
There aren't many good maths books out there, but this is definitely one of them. It manages to describe the concepts - mentioned below in other reviews - so well that by the end you wish you could meet the author and have a chat about mathematics; the sign of a really good book.
The level is about 18+ and it will be of great benefit to maths students going to or at university. It was recommended to me by my lecturer; not surprisingly, I ignored him, but I found it a few years later. I kicked myself when i finished...I wish i had read it earlier. The title doesn't help either...it turns you off immediately...so he's either brave or stupid to call it that...!
It is true that e is an extremely important number, and really, it is far more interesting than pi in many ways. Unravelling its history leads to an explanation of many interesting areas of mathematics, and calculus is described well. The explanation of logs wasn't all that great, but it tied the book together.
If you're a maths student, it will help give subjects you cover some background and perspective. You may understand them better too, so...go and read it now!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Feb. 2000
Format: Paperback
I thought this was and excellent book, tracing the story of e from Napier logarithms through to the development of calculus and beyond. The author's style is excellent producing an interesting, easily read, non-technical history which fleshes out some of the great characters in the history mathematics. There are also some really diverting asides. If you've any interest in the history of mathematics, I'd recommend this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lola Levine on 5 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone with modest mathematical knowledge ('AS' - level for example)and an interest in mathematics would benefit from reading this delightful book. Apart from the material directly related to 'e' there are also highly readable accounts of the dispute between Leibniz and Newton, the rivalry of the Bernoullis and the genius of Euler. I particularly enjoyed the chapters 'Squaring the Hyperbola' and 'The Imaginary becomes Real'. The latter builds to simple mappings of the complex plane, illustrating analyticity, the Cauchy - Riemann Equations and their link to Laplace's equation.The historical aspect to the book is entertaining and the mathematics explained well. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. F. Cayley on 4 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a clear and very readable exposition of the background to the discovery of one of the key numbers in maths - e - and of its significance. Maor assumes very little prior mathematical knowledge, and takes the reader from elementary arithmetic to some quite sophisticated concepts. Along the way, when he refers to the more difficult mathematical sequences, equations etc which he has explained earlier, he reminds the reader in easy-to-follow terms what they mean and why they are relevant. This makes the book very suitable for non-mathematicians. Maor intersperses the maths with more general historical material. In the later chapters a non-expert will occasionally need to apply quite a bit of concentration to grasp the full detail, but the effort is worthwhile: and even if readers just skim these passages, they will still gain enough insight to follow the argument. Thoroughly recommended.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Ringrose on 12 May 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book quite clearly explains a lot of well-known theorems and their historical context. It is not "high-brow" or obtuse, as some maths history books can be. It is not necessary to read the proofs if you don't want to. It is not just about "e", but explains a little about pi and i also. The only bit that I found confusing at first was the lack of a worked example of Napiers original logarithm table, which is very early in the book. Neither did I think that there was an explanation of the practical logic behind Napier's original sparse log tables (apart from the fact that they take a long time to create by hand). However, there is a worked example near the end of the book.
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