How A Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World

Book - 2014
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"The epic battle over a mathematical concept that shook the old order and shaped the world as we know it. On August 10, 1632, five leaders of the Society of Jesus convened in a somber Roman palazzo to pass judgment on a simple idea: that a continuous line is composed of distinct and limitlessly tiny parts. The doctrine would become the foundation of calculus, but on that fateful day the judges ruled that it was forbidden. With the stroke of a pen they set off a war for the soul of the modern world. Amir Alexander's Infinitesimal is the story of the struggle that pitted Europe's entrenched powers against voices for tolerance and change. It takes us from the bloody religious strife of the sixteenth century to the battlefields of the English civil war and the fierce confrontations between leading thinkers like Galileo and Hobbes. We see how a small mathematical disagreement became a contest over the nature of the heavens and the earth: Was the world entirely known and ruled by a divinely sanctioned rationality and hierarchy? Or was it a vast and mysterious place, ripe for exploration? The legitimacy of popes and kings, as well as our modern beliefs in human liberty and progressive science, hung in the balance; the answer hinged on the infinitesimal. Pulsing with drama and excitement, Infinitesimal will forever change the way you look at a simple line--and celebrates the spirit of discovery, innovation, and intellectual achievement"--
Publisher: New York : Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780374176815
Branch Call Number: 510.9 ALEXANDER
Characteristics: 352 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Apr 09, 2018

I did not understand the Mathematics only the importance of being able to question and explore Science further and how this has evolved to our benefit. I clearly understood all the Historical events around the use of Infinitesimals. I can highly recommend this book as an addition to a study of 17th Century history and the evolving of the Modern Mind. It is a history which has lessons appropriate for all of us today.

Apr 25, 2015

Very clearly written; with short biographical sketches, short institutional sketches, and the clearest explanations of the mathematical problems and concepts involved. One can only wish that it were longer. I'm left hoping other histories of maths are written like this one.


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