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Q&A | February 27, 2014

Rene Denfeld: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Rene Denfeld



Describe your latest book. The Enchanted is a story narrated by a man on death row. The novel was inspired by my work as a death penalty... Continue »
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    Rene Denfeld 9780062285508

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The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life

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The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Consulting and collecting numbers has been a feature of human affairs since antiquity (tax collection, head counts for military service) but not until the Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century did social numbers such as births, deaths, and marriages begin to be analyzed. The late I. B. Cohen explores how numbers have come to assume a leading role in science, in the operations and structure of government, in the analysis of society, in marketing, and in many other aspects of daily life. He shows how number problems of government, science, and engineering led to the invention of the computer. He shines a new light on familiar figures like Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Charles Dickens, and he reveals Florence Nightingale as a passionate statistician. Cohen has left us with an engaging and accessible history of numbers, and an appreciation and understanding of the essential nature of statistics.

Review:

"Nowadays we think about almost everything in numerical terms, but this engaging essay shows that this mindset developed only gradually. Cohen, a historian of science (the book is published posthumously), explores the colonization of the modern mind by numbers, beginning with the scientific revolution of the 17th century, which formulated the laws of nature as mathematical relationships and applied numerical tests to validate them, and ending with Florence Nightingale's harnessing of her 'passion for statistics' to sanitation reform in the 19th century. In between, he chronicles the application of numbers to everything from medicine to demographics and the growing penchant of governments for collecting statistics and using them to guide policy. Quantification spilled over into far-flung fields; one Enlightenment philosophe reduced ethics to an algebraic equation, and a statistician analyzed the quality of plays by the age of the playwright. The spread of statistics, Cohen shows, undermined belief in free will, fingered impersonal social conditions rather than individual agency for previously moralized phenomena like crime and introduced the all-powerful figure of the 'average man' to social thought; the numerical elevation of 'head' over 'heart' inspired a backlash from critics like Dickens, whose Hard Times is a manifesto against the statistical way of life. Full of intriguing observations, this well-written, accessible study diagrams intellectual debates that continue to dominate the modern era. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Book News Annotation:

Cohen (d. 2003), who established the history of science department at Harvard, wrote popular works about science and biographies of scientists. Beginning his last book by commenting that "we live in a world of numbers," he traces the diverse roles that numbers have played historically. Intriguing examples link the mathematical concept of the average person with the lifting of the US ban on James Joyce's Ulysess, and explain how Florence Nightingale was a pioneer of the social uses of statistics.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780393057690
Author:
Cohen, I Bernard
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Author:
Cohen, I. Bernard
Subject:
General
Subject:
Science
Subject:
History
Subject:
History -- Philosophy.
Subject:
Science -- History.
Subject:
Mathematical statistics -- History.
Subject:
Mathematics -- History.
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20050431
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.76x6.06x.88 in. .79 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General
Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » General
Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » History
Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » Popular Surveys and Recreational
Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » Probability and Statistics » General
Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » Probability and Statistics » Statistics
Transportation » Nautical » General

The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life Used Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393057690 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Nowadays we think about almost everything in numerical terms, but this engaging essay shows that this mindset developed only gradually. Cohen, a historian of science (the book is published posthumously), explores the colonization of the modern mind by numbers, beginning with the scientific revolution of the 17th century, which formulated the laws of nature as mathematical relationships and applied numerical tests to validate them, and ending with Florence Nightingale's harnessing of her 'passion for statistics' to sanitation reform in the 19th century. In between, he chronicles the application of numbers to everything from medicine to demographics and the growing penchant of governments for collecting statistics and using them to guide policy. Quantification spilled over into far-flung fields; one Enlightenment philosophe reduced ethics to an algebraic equation, and a statistician analyzed the quality of plays by the age of the playwright. The spread of statistics, Cohen shows, undermined belief in free will, fingered impersonal social conditions rather than individual agency for previously moralized phenomena like crime and introduced the all-powerful figure of the 'average man' to social thought; the numerical elevation of 'head' over 'heart' inspired a backlash from critics like Dickens, whose Hard Times is a manifesto against the statistical way of life. Full of intriguing observations, this well-written, accessible study diagrams intellectual debates that continue to dominate the modern era. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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