Friday, December 18, 2015

Journey Through Genius Review

The Journey Through Genius
 by William Dunham is a fantastic overview of critical mathematicians and theorems that created the basis of the mathematics that we have studied since the beginning of our education. William Dunham was originally trained as a topologist but as his mathematical studies progressed, he became more and more interested in the field of mathematical history. He has published several books on this topic and his authority within the field shines through in Genius.

The book is composed of 12 chapters that each focus on a particular time period in mathematics or a specific mathematician's contribution. Mathematicians that are thoroughly covered in this text include Euler, Euclid, Newton, Leibniz, the brothers Bernoulli, and many others. Dunham does an excellent job of giving context to each of the mathematical contributions that he mentions. As a math major, I've often found that the historical context of what I am learning is often not mentioned. Dunham's Genius is an excellent source for filling in this educational gap. 

Although this book was incredibly interesting and eye opening to someone like me who plans to make a career out of mathematics, I do not believe that Dunham directed this novel towards any extensive audience. The historical background is very digestible and anyone with a basic understanding of world history would be able to place each of our mathematical heroes in the proper context.  However, the true appreciation of the geniuses that are covered in Dunham's book lies within their clever proofs which are outlined throughout the chapter. This part of Genius was incredibly interesting to me and the way that Duham outline the groundbreaking proofs was very helpful and insightful. However, this portion of the book would not be approachable for high school students or students very early in their mathematics career as the significance of the proofs may be missed. The book is excellently organized in a chronological fashion that pulls the reader along the history of these mathematical geniuses.

I would highly recommend Genius to anybody who plans to pursue higher mathematics for it provides an excellent narrative of crucial information that is often lost within our course of studies.

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