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The King of Infinite Space: Euclid and His Elementsby David Berlinski
Synopses & Reviews
For more than two thousand years, geometry has been equated with Euclids Elements, the worlds first mathematical treatise. The system of shapes and space it describes is at once so powerful and so natural that it has intrigued men and women for centuries, and continues to be taught in classrooms around the world. In The King of Infinite Space, David Berlinski pays homage to Euclid and the vision that he created, showing how Euclid has achieved a hold on our imagination for reasons that go beyond the details of his proofs. Euclid provided mathematicians with a way of life, a technique of proceeding from what must be assumed to what can be demonstrated. The circumstances under which Euclid composed the Elements remain largely unknown, and the details of his life have long since vanished. But through his masterpiece, Euclid—and the mathematical tradition he established—have achieved immortality. Written with Berlinskis characteristic lyricism and verve, The King of Infinite Space offers a rich, accessible treatment of Euclid and his Elements.
"In this brief, accessible foray, popular math/science writer Berlinski (Newton's Gift) breathes life into an ancient mathematician and the world of axioms and theorems he created — a geometric world that became the basis for much of modern math, from analytic geometry to the idea of curved space-time. To Berlinski, Euclid's fourth-century B.C., 13-volume Elements is a manifestation of his 'intense demand for an idealized world.' In small, precise steps, Euclid spells out five axioms, or assumptions, about points, lines, and angles, and what it means when two things are 'equal' — everything needed to describe shapes in space. Berlinski writes, 'In every generation, a few students have found themselves ravished by the Elements'; so too will even the most math-averse be enthralled by Berlinski's rich, vibrant language: Euclid's 'shady' fifth axiom, concerning parallel lines, is 'the little lunatic locked in a padded cell,' 'all mad glitter and glow'; equilateral triangles are 'squat brutes' that 'do nothing and go nowhere,' while isosceles triangles 'have the power to soar.' Berlinski's book succeeds not only as a history of geometry but also as an exploration of the power of ideas, masterfully replacing cold abstraction with humor and humanity. 13 b&w images. Agent: Susan Ginsburg, Writers House." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Geometry defines the world around us, helping us make sense of everything from architecture to military science to fashion. And for over two thousand years, geometry has been equated with Euclids Elements, arguably the most influential book in the history of mathematics In The King of Infinite Space, renowned mathematics writer David Berlinski provides a concise homage to this elusive mathematician and his staggering achievements. Berlinski shows that, for centuries, scientists and thinkers from Copernicus to Newton to Einstein have relied on Euclids axiomatic system, a method of proof still taught in classrooms around the world. Euclids use of elemental logic—and the mathematical statements he and others built from it—have dramatically expanded the frontiers of human knowledge.
The King of Infinite Space presents a rich, accessible treatment of Euclid and his beautifully simple geometric system, which continues to shape the way we see the world.
About the Author
David Berlinski holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and has taught mathematics and philosophy at universities in the United States and in France. He is the bestselling author of such books as A Tour of the Calculus, The Advent of the Algorithm, and Newtons Gift. A senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle and a former fellow at the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, Berlinski writes frequently for Commentary, among other journals.
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