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Logical Dilemmas: The Life and Work of Kurt Gödel: Life and Work of Kurt Godel Hardcover – 31 Dec 1996


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Review

Dawson's book remains a starting point for our view into the life and work of the man who gave the world incompleteness.
       -- The Review of Modern Logic, March 2007

About the Author

John W. Dawson, Jr. attended M.I.T. as a National Merit Scholar before earning a doctorate in mathematical logic from the University of Michigan. An internationally recognized authority on the life and work of Kurt Godel, Dawson is the author of numerous articles on axiomatic set theory and the history of modern logic. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By a Mathematician for Mathematicians 19 May 2001
By Timothy Haugh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Writing a biography of anyone is difficult. How can a writer, no matter how talented, really claim to understand someone well enough to give an overview of his life? When the subject is a genius like Kurt Godel, whose name is known by few and whose work is really understood by even less, the job must be even more difficult. Fortunately, people like Mr. Dawson are will to give it a shot and he succeeds fairly well.
In putting together this biography, Mr. Dawson has the advantage of being mathematician. Additionally, he has the advantage of being the mathematician who catalogued Godel's papers after his death. This gives him a lot of insight into Godel that other writers cannot have and he weaves quotations from these papers into the biography very well. Mr. Dawson's is a well-documented and logical biography that is short on conjecture and long on footnotes. In brief, it is a biography about a mathematician clearly written by a mathematician. This is both its strength and its weakness.
Actually, I like the purely biographical sections of this book very much. The biographical information is clear and informative, though a bit dry in the academic style favored by mathematicians and scientists. Fortunately, having lived and worked among these people, I am comfortable with this style. More importantly, I feel like I have a better idea now of who Godel was and what he was like from reading this book. His focus on his work, his relationship with his family and friends (particularly his wife) and his ultimate decent into mental illness are much more in focus for me now.
On the other hand, the sections that deal with Godel's mathematics are much more difficult to take. The discussion of mathematics in this book goes far beyond what most people are going to be able to handle. I fear the average reader even with a decent math background who comes across this book will drop it as soon as the mathematics starts and that is unfortunate. (I am always looking for books to promote math even among non-mathematicians. This one does not do it.) A reader who can handle the math, however, will find this book revealing.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. 20 Sept. 2003
By Jason T - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
An excellent biography of Godel. Examines his personal life and mathematical work in an integrated manner. Dawson is thorough, well-researched, and shows a command of the mathematics involved. He provides the most accurate picture available of the real Godel- in contrast to the anecdotal, 'crazy-genius' stories you see elsewhere. This is not a popular account of Godel's work, so the reader will need an understanding of fundamental mathematical logic and Godel's theorem to appreciate much of the book. But Dawson does provide a lot of history of mathematical logic, including a great chapter on developments up to 1928 that could stand by itself. The appendix provides a chronology, genealogy, and "biographical vignettes" of other important logicians.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Biography, a bit heavy on the math 1 Sept. 2005
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book has a kind of interesting way of doing a biography. The subject, Godel, is one of the pre-eminent mathematicians of the twentieth century. This biography, written by a mathematician spends a good bit of time on the math that Godel was doing as well as the story of his life.

Chapter III, for instance is a capsule history of the development of logic to 1928. This is to give background to the mathematical world as it existed when Godel was starting his work. In particular it discusses the open problems in mathematics that David Hilbert proposed in 1900. Godel resolved the second of these problems.

Coupled with his genius in mathematics, Godel also had serious psychological problems. He eventually died of starvation because he was convinced that the food he was getting had been poisoned and refused to eat. Dr. Dawson has written a compasionate and understanding biography, even if the mathematics gets just a bit deep once in a while.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive biography of Kurt Godel 31 July 2001
By Ben Rothke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Knowing what went on in the mind of Kurt Godel will forever be unattainable. Nonetheless, John Dawson comes as close as possible to understanding what made Godel click.
Having catalogued Godel's works and personal papers, Dawson saw aspects of Godel's life that perhaps no one short of his wife had seen.
The book is a fascinating jaunt through the through the lives of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. What is also interesting is Godel's interaction with personalities such as Einstein and Van Neumann.
While the mathematics is often abstract, as can be expected, Logical Dilemmas is a mesmerizing read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Godel and von Neumann 11 Oct. 2012
By Yonghan Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have always wondered how Godel got his name even within the Mathematics circle, considering his proof of incompleteness theorem is so hard to grasp--seemingly bordering on Philosophy where vagueness sometimes a virtue. In fact, his proof is perfectly constructive and meticulous, and I think it shows the boundaries of human intelligence or living creatures as a whole. This book reveals it was von Neumann, another genius of the time, who firstly and immediately recognized his work and supported him throughput.
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