3 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
It has been a long while since I took mathematics at university when I studied mechanical engineering. Compared to some of the other subjects on the course, like stress mechanics, which was just, stressful, it has always been a subject that I enjoyed. However, that was many years ago and I am a bit rusty at it, to say the least.
Maths has been a subject that has intrigued people going back hundreds and thousands of years, in fact, the first evidence of people counting was found on a bone in a cave between South Africa and Swaziland and is estimated to be over 40,000 years old. From this early beginning, Hart-Davis explains why people count using base 10 and base 60, something that we still do even today, before moving onto the mathematics that the Ancient Greeks did with squaring the circle and Pythagoras famous theorem.
They had bigger ideas though about what could be done with numbers and soon they were considering infinity, how to calculate Pi and how many prime numbers there were. The baton was passed to the Islamic world who gave us our numbering system that is still in use today, taught us how to solve quadratic equations and borrowed the concept of nothing from India.
Hart-Davis moves onto the Europeans with chapters on probability, imaginary numbers, the roots of calculus and Fibonacci sequence before covering game theory, the complexities of flow and the three-body problem. As the understanding of mathematics increased so the variety of things that it could describe, this was the era of statistics, Venn diagrams and chaos theory.
The final sections of the book have chapters on more modern mathematical solutions that describe how our modern communications systems work and some of the complex geometries that can be achieved with a little mathematical nous.
I thought that this was an approachable maths book that might even appeal to those that normally turn pale at the thought of a quadratic equation. Hart-Davis writes with a wry humour and it has clear and concise explanations of mathematical discoveries that have changed the way that we see the world and is laid out with lots of pictures and diagrams to make it feel a lot less like a textbook! I did spot the odd typo which baffled me on one of the chapters until I realised where the error was. Apart from that tiny omission, I thought that this was a nicely produced book.