Book of the Week: Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities

By Holly Tucker

I make before you now an earnest confession: I am a not a math genius.

Thanks to graduate training, I feel pretty darn confident when it comes to historical research and critical theory. But math, well, let's just say that I'd never be able to play the Matt Damon character in Good Will Hunting.

For those more numbers-minded than I am, the history of early mathematics is actually very fascinating: Pascal, Fermat, and a host of others chased after math's greatest secrets.

Long ago, we profiled Kevin Devlin's The Unfinished Game here on Wonders and Marvels. (And I just noticed that I made the same confession about being math illiterate on that post too.)

Up this week is Ian Stewart's Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities.

With the good help of Professor Stewart, I'll be offering up a few examples of why math can be so interesting to historically minded folks.

Extra points for the person who can name the guy in the picture above. It starts with A. He's known as the Father of Mathematics. Christian Huygens' father compared his son to this legend of 287-212 BCE. Anyone?

Give up? Archimedes.

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