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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Numbers, numbers everywhere
Jan Gullberg describes his impulse to write this book as deriving from conversations with his son, who was studying engineering. Gullberg himself was not a mathematician, but rather a surgeon of international standing; mathematics became a hobby of his, an intellectual pursuit with practical applications that he could share with his son. This thick book (nearly 1100...
Published on 23 Mar 2005 by Kurt Messick

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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, but has unfortunate typos
I liked this book a lot, and so was disappointed when I found a bad couple of typos on p.154 where the power rules are misstated as: "a^(m+n) = a^m + a^n" and "a^(m-n) = a^m - a^n" instead of "a^(m+n) = a^m * a^n and a^(m-n) = a^m / a^n." (If this were true, then a^2 would equal a + a.) I also noticed some other less serious errors,...
Published on 25 Oct 1998


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Numbers, numbers everywhere, 23 Mar 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
Jan Gullberg describes his impulse to write this book as deriving from conversations with his son, who was studying engineering. Gullberg himself was not a mathematician, but rather a surgeon of international standing; mathematics became a hobby of his, an intellectual pursuit with practical applications that he could share with his son. This thick book (nearly 1100 pages) has over a thousand drawings, which were prepared by Gullberg's son, Par.
This book can be classified in many ways. In one sense, it is a giant book of mathematics trivia - almost every major and minor aspect of mathematics is represented here in some fashion, from the explanation of cardinal and ordinal numbers to the analytic geometry, calculus, probability and statistics, and symbolic logic. These are arranged in a fairly standard progression, one that most people who have studied mathematics in school will recognise, at least up to the point that they studied.
Another classification of the book can be that of a mathematics encyclopedia. The table of contents, supplemented with the name index and the subject index in the back of the book, makes this a ready reference for short descriptions.
There are fun pieces here - for example, Gullberg derives approximate values for pi in two different scriptural texts (a passage from Kings and a passage from Nehemiah); there are mathematical jokes (yes, there are such things) and puzzles, some of which have only been recently solved (Fermat's last theorem, for example). There are historical pieces and purely mathematical pieces here, and in general the reader will learn about mathematics even when one doesn't understand fully the information being presented.
This is the one drawback of the book - it is not a mathematics textbook. It does not set problems to be solved, but rather presents the theory and ideas, which, if one is not already familiar with them, one will have difficulty learning them for the first time here. There are some pieces that will seem familiar from prior schooling, and no doubt a number of things that will simply make logical sense, but for those who have not had differential or integral calculus, for example, the explanations here will likely make sense in the general philosophy behind the ideas (the two are essentially opposite forms of the same problems) but the actual mathematical operations will not be so comprehensible.
This is not to say that the mathematically illiterate need be intimidated by this book - the good thing about this text is that it does have something for everyone regardless of mathematical proficiency, and can enlighten and entertain people from those who live for numbers to those who run from them at top speed.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece., 4 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
This really is a classic, the most enjoyable overview of mathematics in print. The writing has both texture and clarity and the author clearly loves mathematics. Aside from its subject, it's quite probably a literary masterpiece.
Chapters can be read pretty much separately and in any order. Apart from using it to review and improve my math, I find it of fantastic assistance as a reference when reading technically dense material.
My only fault with this book are the sections on calculus and integration, which are a bit rushed, but this is minor compared to the overall quality of the of the text. The sections on the history and developments of mathematics are worth the price of the book alone. It's expensive, but beautifully bound and printed (the author did his own typesetting); you will been reading this book years from the day you buy it, unlike so many popular math paperbacks.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reference... a Must Have, 9 April 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
As an aspiring mathematician, I use a great deal of math from simple algebra through calculus and beyond. This book looked so great, it's all I asked for for Christmas. I was not disappointed. It is a comprehensive book covering many essential math concepts; algebraic techniques, graphing, trig, calculus, linear algebra, probability and much, much more.

The author has found a cohesive way to bring all these different, but interrelated subdisciplines of math together for a fantastic, easy to use math companion.

Great gift idea (once you've picked up a copy for yourself)! Useful to high school students. I wish this had been on my bookshelf when I was in high school. A must have! Thank you, Jan Gullberg!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fantastic., 7 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
A tremendous book. I've actually read it from cover to cover, but it is perfect for dipping in to casually. Flip this masterpiece open to any page and there's great maths - well explained and informative throughout. Also suitable as a reference tool for any level of maths - certianly into the second year of a degree.
If you have an interest in maths, buy this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In 60 years, the best mathematics book I have read, 3 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
This is an outstanding compendium. Not influenced by the aberrations of "Modern Math" it is enjoyable, comprehensive and easy to understand. The author has done a tremendous service for all of us who love mathematics and to entice many mathematicians to come.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great book, 27 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
This book is, in my opinion, the best book on the subject available. I enjoyed reading a book that was written in a clear and concise manner. There are many humorous pictures and quotations to accompany the text. It is also very up to date, (i.e. the description of Fermat's last theorem and the new Mersenne primes). This book should be a standard reference for college students and anyone interested in mathematics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is amazing !!!!!!, 4 Mar 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
When Martin Gardner descrubes a book as "awesome" I am impressed. Now that I have my own copy I find it difficult to find words to adequately describe this book. Of the many books on the history and theory of mathematics that I either own or have read this one stands out above the rest. Jan Gullberg has turned mathematical writing into an artform. A general text, such as this, can obviously not treat every subject in detail, and if you have a particular interest you will still need other sources, but don't let that lead you to believe the treatment here is superficial. This book, the result of ten years work, is indeed awesome. Anyone with an existing passion for mathematics will find much here that is already familiar, but presented in a refreshing, and highly readable, fashion. Anyone new to the subject could not ask for a better introduction. I have many other "favourite" mathematical authors and titles, but if I had to choose one it would definitely be this one. It is superb.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb summary of nearly all branches of mathematics, 14 Aug 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
If you had to own one mathematics textbook, for popular or as an academic review, this is it. That its written by a physician is remarkable. If you're into electronics, its wit, content and directness is as good as Horowitz and Hill's "Art of Electronics". Its discourses on the history of mathematics extending to antiquity, used as adjuncts to deepen one's appreciation of math, is a feature notable for the best books on any subject. It clearly will be legendary. Alas, the publishers should use better materials and acid free paper. Gullberg's book will live long and prosper.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book to learn the history of math, 24 Mar 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Hardcover)
The author's style is often witty, making this book an easy
read. I bought it intending to use it for reference, and
ended up reading it from cover to cover!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mathematics from the birth of numbers -Jan Gullberg, 2 Feb 2012
By 
G. Young (UK) - See all my reviews
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I am on my second copy of this book, having given away the first. I missed it so much I bought a new one. It's an excellent place to start if you have any sort of mathematical problem. The fact that the mathematics is interspersed with historical notes on the developments is an added bonus
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Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers by Peter Hilton (Hardcover - 9 April 1997)
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