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***Mathematicians Are People, Too!

Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians

by Luetta Reimer and Wilbert Reimer

Reviewed September 1, 2003.
Dale Seymour Publications, Palo Alto, California, 1990.  143 pages.
$15.95 in paperback on
Available at Sembach Library (J920 REI).

I discovered this book and its companion second volume while doing inventory in the children’s nonfiction section of the library.  Since I was still reading Beyond the Limit at the time, I found them irresistible.  Beyond the Limit stops when Sofya Kovalevskaya gets her PhD, and I was remarkably curious to find out what happened after that and if she lived to see the Communist Revolution.  (She didn’t, dying in her forties, but she did make some more great mathematical achievements before she died.)

This book is designed for teachers of math to tell their students stories about the great mathematicians of the past, stressing that math was developed by real people, people with a great curiosity about the world.  The style is light, easy reading, but is very interesting.

In some ways it backfired with me, making the mathematicians seem not at all like normal people.  They all seemed to be people with an obsession with mathematics that would not be denied.  (Of course, this fed into my thinking about obsessions, which I talk about in my review of Feynman’s Rainbow.)

The book covers mathematicians from Thales of Miletus, who lived in the Sixth Century B. C, to the Indian Srinivasa Rmanujan of the Twentieth Century.  These are fascinating stories, focusing mainly on the human aspects of the great mathematicians, with a light touch on the problems they solved.


Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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