Monday, August 24, 2009

Journey through Genius by William Dunham

This book gives a thorough treatment of the history of important mathematical results. There are a number of interesting mathematical examples set in an historical context which makes the book very joyful to read.
The author has hit the right balance between the mathematics such as proofs of theorems and the history behind each theorem. It is good to see the author does not shy away from producing proofs of results which many popular writers tend to eschew so that they can increase their sales. This can be challenging at times for the reader but they can skip these without losing the flow.
Dunham has a fantastic writing style which keeps the reader hooked and intrigued.
Another great asset of the book is that it is portable and reasonably cheap at around £10. I manage to read most of it in Starbucks with pen and paper of course.
However I have following reservations:
Font size is too small and it is particularly difficult to read some of the fractions.
Two typographical errors are – On page 170 the fraction should be 5/128 and not 5/12. On page 238 the factorization should be over 2a and not just a.
On page 235 the first Fermat prime 3 is missing.
A less serious issue is that once the author has covered a particular concept he expects the reader to fully digest it. Dunham has tackled this by signposting his earlier results but I think it would have been more readable for the layman to see the statement of the result again.
This is a book for anybody interested in history of mathematics or mathematics in general. You do not need to be a mathematician to appreciate this book.
Overall I would say this is an excellent book and would recommend anybody interested in mathematics to purchase this.
Kuldeep Singh
24th August 2009