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Taming the Unknown: A History of Algebra from Antiquity to the Early Twentieth Century Hardcover – 21 Jul 2014

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (21 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691149054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691149059
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.4 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 492,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"An excellent book; its accurate historical and pedagogical purpose offers an accessible read for historians and mathematicians."--Raffaele Pisano, "Metascience"

"Well written and engaging with a wealth of useful material and a substantial bibliography for further reading, this book is a valuable resource for anyone with a serious interest in the history of algebra. With "Taming the Unknown," Victor Katz and Karen Parshall have created a comprehensive synthesis of recent research on the subject, accessible to mathematicians, historians of mathematics and anyone involved in the teaching of algebra."--Adrian Rice, "BSHM Bulletin"

From the Back Cover

""Taming the Unknown" is well written and informative, and will satisfy any reader with an interest in the history of algebra. Striking just the right balance between general overview and technical detail, this book is a pleasure to read."--Joseph W. Dauben, City University of New York, Graduate Center

"This original and high-quality book is a significant contribution to the history of mathematics. It will be useful to scholars doing research in the history of mathematics, as well as to a broader readership that includes mathematics teachers, advanced undergraduate or graduate students, and mathematicians."--Leo Corry, Tel Aviv University

"This fine survey of the history of algebra is clearly and engagingly written. It will become the standard reference on this topic by virtue of its scholarship, coverage, and readability."--Tom Archibald, Simon Fraser University

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Too often math is taught as if it just fell out of thin air. It didn't! And a very relieving aspect is the number of errors made along the way by Serious Mathematicians as they developed their ideas Like all creative activities, 'making math' takes effort and sweat. This is worth knowing!

So here you not only learn about the history of ideas, but some actual math, too. Thoroughly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9b08133c) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b08d6c0) out of 5 stars A Powerful and Modern Narrative on Algebra. 11 April 2015
By G. Arnell Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In recent times, much exceptional work often in the form of articles has been written on the nature and history of algebra: What is algebra truly about? What role did symbolism really play throughout its history? Are there three distinct phases in the evolution of algebra: rhetorical, syncopated and symbolic? Or only two: rhetorical and symbolic? Or should we look for a different classification scheme entirely? Excellent research is being done in many places throughout the world on these and other important questions.

This excellent and well-researched book joins this current tradition by providing one of the most powerful historical narratives of algebra that I have yet seen. In regards to its history on elementary algebra, the book strikes the nice balance between providing sufficient technical details without overwhelming the reader. It also goes into very nice depth and detail in discussing the extensive contributions to algebra of medieval mathematicians.

Another highlight of the book is its detailed discussion of the connection between the revolutionary work in algebra of 16th century mathematicians and the revolutionary work in analytic geometry, calculus and physics of 17th century mathematicians & scientists. This is a powerful and important transformational bridge that is often glossed over in many books. Taming the Unknown tackles these particulars head-on; and in an insightful and nuanced fashion that sets it apart from the pack.

The book also excels in its demonstration of how the study of the algebraic structure of equation solving in the 17th through early 19th centuries gradually transformed into the modern abstract algebraic study of mathematical structures in general.

All in all, Katz & Parshall are to be commended for having written a remarkable book. One of their stated goals is to show how the algebra of the past (much of which is now codified in the x’s & y’s in today’s school algebra courses) led to some of the modern algebra of today (now taught to “advanced college-level students”). A noble aim which, in my opinion, they have in great measure achieved.

If you are someone seeking a deeper conceptual understanding and appreciation of the history and/or structure of algebra in its many phases, then this book (written in the form of a tightly woven and explanatory story) is for you!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c14d6d8) out of 5 stars I rate this book, Taming the unknown, as ... 5 Jan. 2016
By Francis Bacon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I rate this book, Taming the unknown, as a magnificent 5 star book.
I applaud the authors for the hard work and academic excellence
that they put into their book. To see the historical unfolding of the
mathematical roots of algebra across so many cultures, makes for
fascinating reading. The quest for solving for the unknown, reveals the
universal aptitude of scholars across Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek,
Chinese, Islamic and European cultures in giving us this heritage. This
book is a treasure to have on my book shelve.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c14d5dc) out of 5 stars Great book! 10 April 2016
By Rachael Bro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I actually didn't purchase this book on Amazon but I did use it for a class and really enjoyed it so I thought I might as well post a review. The authors did a great job at organizing their book as well as presenting information to the reader. Even though I was required to read it for class, I found myself not hating that I had to read for class. It's interesting to read about history from a mathematical view.
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