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History: Math & Science

The Age of Science: What Scientists Learned in the Twentieth Century
by Gerard Piel
The author is the man who practically invented modern science journalism and revived Scientific American in the 1940s. The book is a highly readable work by one of the most important scientists and journalists of our time. Each chapter is compelling in its own right and can be read by anyone who is curious about the scientific discovery process. Fans of Uncle Tungsten and Tuxedo Park will enjoy this book. It covers physics, biology, earth science, and anthropology, with a strong emphasis on the physical sciences. As a summary of our learning up to Y2K, it does, however, pretty much exclude the electronics revolution and the computer revolution it spawned.


The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics
by George Gheverghese Joseph
This is a book of scholarship and clarity. Mathematics is viewed as truly global pursuit in which every society has participated. It demolishes all the Eurocentric assumptions which were byproducts of past dominance. He explains ancient African, American, and Asian methods of counting and manipulating numbers with ease, paying particular attention to the historical development of and interrelationships between cultures. The revised edition includes a lengthy section, titled "Reflections," that updates and expands on the original material.


by M. Mitchell Waldorp
The science of complexity studies how single elements such as a species or a stock spontaneously organize into complicated structures like ecosystems and economies; stars become galaxies, and snowflakes avalanches almost as if these systems were obeying a hidden yearning for order. Waldrop introduces researchers, rebellious graduate students, Nobel laureates, and pragmatic businessmen who are formulating surprising answers to complex questions about the universe.


The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal
by M. Mitchell Waldrop
"For anyone interested in why computers and the net are the way they are today, this entertaining and well-written account is essential. Using Licklider as the fulcrum, it covers the origins of computer science, interactive computing, and the internetworked PC world we live with today in a very personal way. It provides an insight into how these ideas evolved and how the personalities behind them animated that evolution. It is admittedly a very MIT/ARPA centric history, but given that's where many of these ideas had their genesis, it does a good job of covering a large amount of the territory of modern computing history."


Edison's Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life
by Gaby Wood
Gaby Wood writes, "Can this machine think? Can it talk? Can it bleed? What part of ourselves, secret or otherwise, has it taken?" This question is central to the book, but the surrounding voyage is a spectacular treasure trove of curious and well researched anecdote. This book is a rich and informative exploration of our age-old obsession with "making life." Could an eighteenth-century mechanical duck really digest and excrete its food? Was "the Turk," a celebrated chess - playing and - winning machine fabricated in 1769, a dazzling piece of fakery, or could it actually think? Why was Thomas Edison obsessed with making a mechanical doll - a perfect woman, mass-produced? Can a twenty-first-century robot express human emotions of its own? Taking up themes long familiar from the realms of fairy tales and science fiction, Gaby Wood traces the hidden prehistory of a modern idea - the thinking, hoaxes, and inventions that presaged contemporary robotics and the current experiments with artificial intelligence.


by Scott McCartney
The story of the invention of the world's first computer – the triumphs and the tragedies.


Euclid's Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace
by Leonard Mlodinow
This is not just a history of geometry. It is a timeline of reason and abstraction, with all the major players present: Euclid, Descartes, Gauss, Einstein, and Witten, each represented by a minibiography. It's impossible not to be staggered at the mathematical feats of these geniuses, accomplished with only observation and intense thought. Each story builds on the last, until at the end, one has a sense of having arrived at understanding. A working knowledge of basic geometry is helpful but not essential to enjoying the book.


Fantasia Mathematica
by Clifton Fadiman
An anthology of mathematically oriented short stories and poems. This classic collection of mathematical stories, essays and anecdotes was first published in 1958, and is now back in print. Ranging from the poignant to the comical to the surreal, these selections include writing by Aldous Huxley, Martin Gardner, H.G. Wells, George Gamow, G.H. Hardy, Plato, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and many others.


Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything
by James Gleick
Our perceptions are right. Never in the history of the human race have so many had so much to do in so little time. The book delivers a brisk volley of observations on how microchips, media, and economics, among other things, have accelerated the pace of everyday experience over the course of the 20th century. Gleick has managed to weave in slyly perceptive observations of our increasingly hopped-up relationship to time. The result is the kind of thing only an accelerated culture like ours could have come up with: an instant classic.


Five Equations That Changed The World, The Power And Poetry Of Mathematics
by Michael Guillen
Mr Guillen, the science editor of the ABC TV Good Morning show, tells the fascinating stories behind the 5 mathematical equations.


Gardner's Whys and Wherefores
by Martin Gardner
The book includes articles on the puzzles in James Joyce's Ulysses; on the fantasies of Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Lord Dunsany, Gilbert Chesterton, and H.G.Wells. He expresses strong opinions about the "anthropic principle", computer games capable of discovering scientific laws, the philosophy of W.V.Quine, Marvin Minsky's view of the workings of the minds, the idiosyncracies of social theorist Allan Bloom, the reality of unknown digits that "sleep" in pi, and whether physicists are really on the verge of discovering Everything.


Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Braid
by Douglas R. Hofstader
Twenty years after it topped the bestseller charts, this Pulitzer prize-winning book is still something of a marvel. Besides being a profound and entertaining meditation on human thought and creativity, this book looks at the surprising points of contact between the music of Bach, the artwork of Escher, and the mathematics of GÖdel. It also looks at the prospects for computers and artificial intelligence (AI) for mimicking human thought. For the general reader and the computer techie alike, this book still sets a standard for thinking about the future of computers and their relation to the way we think.

The world has moved on since 1979, of course. The book predicted that computers probably won't ever beat humans in chess, though Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997. And the vinyl record, which serves for some of Hofstadter's best analogies, is now left to collectors. Sections on recursion and the graphs of certain functions from physics look tantalizing, like the fractals of recent chaos theory. And AI has moved on, of course, with mixed results. Yet Gödel, Escher, Bach remains a remarkable achievement. Its intellectual range and ability to let us visualize difficult mathematical concepts help make it one of this century's best for anyone who's interested in computers and their potential for real intelligence.


Go To: Story of Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Scientists & Iconoclasts Who Were the Hero Programmers of the Software Revolution
by Steve Lohr
This book is a great introduction to the softer side of the information age. Along with the Microsoft and Apple stories, he also digs deeply to learn how Fortran and Cobol were developed and the ventures into the open-source world. Lohr is adept at personalizing the process of software development, which serves to make some of the business and technical decisions more comprehensible to the lay reader.

Since he starts early in the history of the field, Lohr gets to share some of the oddities of the days before programming was professionalized. Developers were kids, musicians, game experts, and practically anyone who showed an interest. Many readers will be surprised and delighted to read of the strong recruitment of women and their many contributions to software development--an aspect of geek history that has long been neglected. GoTo should break down a few preconceptions while building up a new respect for the coders who guided us into the 21st century.


History of Mathematics
by Carl B.Boyer
This book brings the field up-to-date with recent discoveries. Beautifully illustrated, full of history, literary pastiches, biographies and nearly 50 contributors to the field of dissections plus Frederickson's accounts of his own discoveries and how he came to make them. A 9 page biography and 2 indexes are included. An essential book for anyone interested in geometric dissections.


The History of Numbers: An Introduction to Quantitative Approaches
by Pat Hudson


The Loom of God : Mathematical Tapestries at the Edge of Time
by Clifford Pickover
"I do not know if God is a mathematician, but mathematics is the loom upon which God weaves the fabric of the universe," writes Clifford Pickover in this intriguing examination of the link between religion and numbers. This is not so much a unified narrative as a loosely linked series of discussions about computers, fractals, Stonehenge, Kabbalism, and the End of the World. Why is it that famous math-minds like Pythagoras, Pascal, and Newton were also devoted believers? Or that various faiths seem so preoccupied with numerology? Pickover doesn't offer any easy answers, but this volume--handsomely illustrated with old woodcuts and other graphics--will appeal to readers who enjoy numerical games.


The Magic Numbers of Dr. Matrix
by Martin Gardner
This book contains many mathematical, and numeralogical puzzles and analyses. The author details all of his meetings and interviews with Dr. Matrix. Dr. Matrix was a numerologist from the 50's to 1980, He was also a scam-artist involving mathematical scams.


Mathematical History of the Golden Number
by Roger Herz-Fischles
Of interest not only to mathematicians but also to classicists, archaeologists, historians of science, and anyone interested in mathematical ideas. This is the first complete, in-depth study of the origins of division in extreme and mean ratio (DEMR) i.e. the Golden Number. This text charts every aspect of the historic development of this important mathematical concept from its first appearance in Euclid's ELEMENTS through the 18th century.


Mathematical Models
by H.M.Cundy and A.P.Rollett
For ages 12 and up. Introducing the layman to the diverse world of mathematics, its history, philosophy, principles and personalities.


Mathematical Universe: An Alphabetical Journey through the Great Proofs, Problems and Personalities
by William Dunham
Contains a wealth of amusing stories and little known facts from the annals of math. All proofs and equations are introduced through easy-to-follow, step-by-step explanations. Discusses some of the most intriguing mysteries such as Russell's Paradox. Features brief biographies of many great mathematicians including Isaac Newton, Bertrand Russell and Hypatia of Alexandria.


Mathematics and the Physical World
by Morris Kline
For all of us mathematicians who actually thought math developed in a vacuum, this book has excellent examples of how inextricably linked math, science and history are. The author has written an accessible history of math, equations and all. It's a perfect balance for those who know their history and want to know more about the math behind scientific ideas, and those who know their math and want to delve into the practical applications of mathematical ideas. This book does not age with time. It is a must read for those interested in the humanistic value of a subject long considered forbidding by those who have been disillusioned about what mathematics really is and its purpose in the history of mankind. It should be a required text for High School math students. Highly recommended!


Mathematics Elsewhere: An Exploration of Ideas Across Cultures
by Marcia Ascher
This book belongs on the shelves of mathematicians, math students, and math educators, and in the hands of anyone interested in societies other than our own. It is a significant contribution to the recognized but still-emerging field of ethno-mathematics The ideas discussed come from geographically varied cultures: for example - the Borana and Malagasy of Africa, the Tongans and Marshall Islanders of Oceania, the Tamil of South India, the Basques of Western Europe, and the Balinese and Kodi of Indonesia. Through such examples of how particular societies structure time, reach decisions about the future, make models and maps, systematize relationships, and create intriguing figures, the author demonstrates that traditional cultures have mathematical ideas that are far more substantial and sophisticated than has been generally acknowledged. For example. Malagasy divination rituals rely on complex algebraic algorithms. And some cultures use calendars far more abstract and elegant than our own. The Basque notion of equivalence, for example, is a dynamic and temporal one not adequately captured by the equal sign. Other ideas taken to be the exclusive province of professionally trained Western mathematicians are, in fact, shared by people in many societies.


Mathematics in the Time of the Pharoahs
by Richard Gillings
A sweeping tour through the ancient Egyptian methods of calculation, parts of which are still used today in computer code! In his well-written account, Mr. Gillings makes it very clear that the common view on ancient Egyptian mathematics as 'rather primitive' is definitely wrong. Provided with a few basic tools, the scribes of the epoch were able to carry out very complicated computations indeed, at times involving several different units. Their rough-and-ready estimate of pi was off by only 0.6 percent as compared to the correct value. The author presents a rich variety of calculated examples and explains the logic behind them.


Mathematics in Western Culture
by Morris Kline, Richard Courant
This book gives a remarkably fine account of the influences mathematics has had on the development of philosophy, the physical sciences, religion, and the arts in Western life.

The author illustrates the processes by which people think and how those processes have also changed through the ages (i.e., The Age of Reason versus The Renaissance). This book gives some real insights as to the nature and limitations of the current state of mathematics and physics.


Mazes Ancient and Modern
by Robert Field
His book traces the history of the maze in all its forms from the traditional turf mazes of medieval times to hedge mazes to modern mazes made of brick, mirrors, and water jets. There is a mixture of photos and drawings that offer fascinating insight into them.


Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America
by Louis Menand
A quadruple biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes, William James, Charles Sanders Pierce, and John Dewey that shows how these four men developed a philosophy of pragmatism following the Civil War, a period Menand likens to post-cold-war times. Together, they formed the Metaphysical Club, a conversational club formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872. Dozens of figures receive fascinating thumbnail sketches, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Darwin to Jane Addams and Eugene Debs. The result is a grand portrait of an age that will appeal to anyone with even a modest interest in the history of philosophy and ideas. Note that "these 4 men were more responsible than any other group for moving American thought into the modern world." Academic freedom and cultural pluralism are just two of their legacies.


The Music of Reason : Experience the Beauty of Mathematics Through Quotations
by Theoni Pappas
Learn what Alice in Wonderland, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Mae West, Plato and others have to say about mathematics. The Music of Reason is a compendium of profound and profane thoughts on mathematics by mathematicians, scientists, authors and artists. This collection of quotes is a mixed bag of the humorous and the philosophical is a thought-provoking sampler on mathematics, dealing with mathematics and the imaginations, the arts, history, nature, numbers, sciences, computers and much...


Navaho Code Talkers
by Nathan Aaseng
The courageous story of the Navaho soldiers of World War II who served their country by speaking their own language which has roots in no other.


Number: From Ahmes to Cantor
by Gazale Midhat
History is always relevant. We might take numbers and counting for granted, but we shouldn't. Our number literacy rests upon centuries of human effort, punctuated here and there by strokes of genius. Midhat Gazale takes us on a journey from the ancient worlds of the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, the Mayas, the Greeks, the Hindus, up to the Arab invasion of Europe and the Renaissance. Our guide introduces us to some of the most fascinating and ingenious characters in mathematical history, from Ahmes the Egyptian scribe (whose efforts helped preserve some of the mathematical secrets of the architects of the pyramids) through the modern era of Georg Cantor (the great nineteenth-century inventor of transfinite numbers). Abundantly illustrated the book is remarkable for its coherency and simplicity. Number will be indispensable for all those who enjoy mathematical recreations and puzzles, and for those who delight in numeracy. It is a sequel to Gnomon.


Number: The Language of Science
by Tobias Danzig
Written for the layman, it is the story of the evolution of mathematics. Such a history is vital to the understanding of mathematics.


Numbers : The Universal Language (Discoveries Series)
by Denis Guedj & Lory Frankel
A superb historical survey from the history of the zero to infinity. The art work is superb, and there is a Chronology at the end of the book. An excellent source book for teachers as well as curious individuals.


A Peek into Math of the Past
by Erica Dakin Voolich
Grades 6-8 There's more to math than formulas and equations. This book introduces the reader to the history of mathematics, exploring the cultures and people who shaped math concepts and skills. Biographies of mathematicians and interesting activities introduce readers to the great minds behind the math and the fun.


Prisoner's Dilemna John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb
by William Poundstone
This is a book for the general reader. You need not be a mathematician to understand the contents. Indeed, it is a pretty simple book, and you will only learn basic aspects of game theory if you haven't encountered it before. What you can expect is a story about von Neumann and the cold war and the interesting paradoxes that such situations create.


Pythagoras' Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender Wars
by Margaret Wertheim
A social and cultural history of physics, from ancient Greece to the present. From its inception, physics has been a male-dominated field and continues to be so today. The author looks at the religious origins of physics as the source of its gender inequality, and argues that the continuing religious undercurrent in contemporary physics is behind women's under-representation in the field.


The Story of Mathematics
by Richard Mankiewicz
The evolution of science, philosophy, and mathematics, all related, is far more important to the history of humanity than a parade of rulers and a procession of wars. Strong words, but Richard Mankiewicz comes mighty close to backing them up in his fascinating book. Divided into brief chapters, the book traces the development of mathematics from a baboon's fibula with 29 clearly visible notches (from Swaziland, circa 35,000 B.C.) to the Babylonian sexagesimal--or base 60--number system, which survives to this day in our method of timekeeping, to Euclid's Elements, described as "the most important textbook of all time," to fractals and other Mandelbrot sets. Along the way, Mankiewicz pays tribute to the men and women at the forefront of mathematics, though he's not afraid to dispel some myths: the Pythagorean theorem was widely known in antiquity before Pythagoras was even born, and a 14th-century Chinese manuscript clearly depicts what is now known as "Pascal's Triangle," a good three centuries before Pascal was born. Most entertaining are the chapters on practical applications of mathematics: astronomy, codemaking and -breaking, military strategy, modern art, and navigation.


The Story of Money
by Giolo & Betsy Maestro
A history of money, from the barter system in prehistoric times, to the first use of coins and paper money, to the development of the modern monetary system.


Thirty Years that Shook Physics (Quantum Theory)
by George Gamow
This book will makes you wish you stayed awake in Math class. Some of the text is made up of formulas that can make your head spin. However, the stories of the men and their reasoning behind the explanations of how the world works at the atomic level versus the "real world " physics of Newton and others is fascinating. Definitely there was a time when what we knew to be true was vastly different from what was actually true.


Trigonometric Delights
by Eli Maor
Here is trigonometry viewed through the lens of history. Maor eases the reader from the mathematical puzzles of the Rhind Papyrus all the way to infinite series and the analysis of music produced by vibrating strings. Along the course, he leads us on a grand tour of the lovely but often neglected area of mathematics called trigonometry. If you think that trigonometry is boring and trivial, then read this book! Maor shows how central trig has been to many fields of math and science.


The Two Cultures
by C.P.Snow & Stefan Collini
This classic book talks about and tries to promote cooperation between the "two cultures" – those trained in the sciences and those trained in the humanities. Writing about his experience as a person trained in science but pursuing a writing career, Snow precisely identifies the problems of the two cultures miscommunicating with each other. Written in the late 1950s, in Britain, Snow's work has influenced a wide range of contemporary thinkers, and has been in no small part an influence on the "writing across the curriculum" movement in American universities. Whether you are interested in the humanities or the sciences, this book clearly will show you the tensions you may face dealing with the "other culture," and the problems such stereotypes pose.


Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing
by Martin Davis
Once again, history! Computers rely on such things as semiconductors, memory chips, and electricity. But they also rely on a hard-won body of scientific knowledge that has enabled the now-ubiquitous devices to perform complex calculations, multitask, and even play a game of solitaire. Martin Davis, a fluent interpreter of mathematics and philosophy, locates the source of this knowledge in the work of the remarkable German thinker G. W. Leibniz, who, among other accomplishments, was a distinguished jurist, mining engineer, and diplomat but found time to invent a contraption called the "Leibniz wheel," a sort of calculator that could carry out the four basic operations of arithmetic. Leibniz subsequently developed a method of calculation called the calculus raciocinator, an innovation his successor George Boole extended by turning logic into algebra. Davis traces the development of this logic, essential to the advent of "thinking machines," through the workshops and studies of such thinkers as Georg Cantor, Kurt Gödel, and Alan Turing, each of whom puzzled out just a little bit more of the workings of the world and made the present possible.


The Universal History of Computing :From the Abacus to the Quantum Computer
by George Ifrah
From the I Ching to AI, tremendous human brainpower has been devoted to devising easier means of counting and thinking. Former math teacher Georges Ifrah has devoted his life to tracking down traces of our early calculating tools and makes good on his promise of universality by leaping far back in time and spanning all of the inhabited continents. Ifrah has great respect for our ancestors and their work, and he transmits this feeling to his readers with humor and humility. His timelines, diagrams, and concordance help the reader who might be unfamiliar with foreign concepts of numbers and computation keep up with his narrative.


The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer
by Georges Ifrah, David Bellos. E.F.Harding & Sophie Wood
This book is a wonderfully comprehensive overview of numbers and counting spanning all the inhabited continents as far back in time as records will allow. Beyond the ancient Babylonians, Sumerians, and Indians, Ifrah takes us farther south into Africa to examine an early decimal counting system and into ancient Mexico to reconstruct what we can of the Mayan calendar and numerical system. The 27 chapters are chiefly organized by culture, though there are some cross-cultural overviews of topics like letters and numbers. After wandering the world for 10 years, studying and learning; this scholastic pilgrim returned with amazing stories to tell. Rigorously researched facts, make The Universal History of Numbers a uniquely important and fascinating volume.


What is Mathematics Really?
by Reuben Hersh
The author argues that mathematics must be understood as a human activity, a social phenomenon, part of human culture, historically evolved, and intelligible only in a social context. Hersh pulls the screen back to reveal mathematics as seen by professionals, debunking many mathematical myths, and demonstrating how the "humanist" idea of the nature of mathematics more closely resembles how mathematicians actually work. At the heart of his book is a fascinating historical account of the mainstream of philosophy ranging from Pythagoras, Descartes, and Spinoza, to Bertrand Russell, David Hilbert, and Rudolph Carnap followed by the mavericks who saw mathematics as a human artifact, including Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Mill, and Lakatos. What is Mathematics, Really? reflects an insider's view of mathematical life, and will be hotly debated by anyone with an interest in mathematics or the philosophy of science.


What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Information Frontier
by James Gleick
This book was written as technologies were emerging. For those who have entered the arena late, the book provides the full name of things that are now only known by their acronyms. For instance, I've never known what ISDN stands for, but now I know that it's 'Integrated Services Digital Network.' With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that some of Gleick's predictions were very prescient (e.g. the Y2K anti-climax), while others were less accurate or at least premature (e.g. cash becoming obsolete). All in all, the book provides a very enjoyable look through the rearview mirror.


The World's Most Famous Mathematical Problem
by Marilyn Vos Sevant
The proof of Fermat's last theorem and other mathematical mysteries.