Significant Figures

The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians
Narrated by: Roger Clark
Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (154 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In Significant Figures, acclaimed mathematician Ian Stewart introduces the visionaries of mathematics throughout history. Delving into the lives of 25 great mathematicians, Stewart examines the roles they played in creating, inventing, and discovering the mathematics we use today. Through these short biographies, we get acquainted with the history of mathematics from Archimedes to Benoit Mandelbrot, and learn about those too often left out of the cannon, such as Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (c. 780-850), the creator of algebra, and Augusta Ada King (1815-1852), Countess of Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer.

Tracing the evolution of mathematics over the course of two millennia, Significant Figures will educate and delight aspiring mathematicians and experts alike.

©2017 Joat Enterprises (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"By showing how even mathematical geniuses face all-too-human challenges, Stewart offers a riveting chronicle of one of humankind's loftiest endeavors." (Paul Halpern, author of The Quantum Labyrinth)

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What listeners say about Significant Figures

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Fantastic

Easy to follow narration, and the right amount of depth used for the discussion of each person. It certainly did its job in provoking my imagination and informing me

9 people found this helpful

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Great stories, math made accessible to the novice

Where does Significant Figures rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I like this audiobook most, because I think it is inspiring to people who like mathematics. Several other nonfiction audiobooks in similar areas are interesting, but many of the mathematical ones stop short of detail that illustrates how ingenious or special some of the mathematical thinkers were. I like that the ideas are here, they are accessible, but they aren't too watered down.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Significant Figures?

I learned a lot about integrable tops. It was fascinating to me how Kovalevskaya came into the picture.

Which character – as performed by Roger Clark – was your favorite?

I think Ramanujan's story is my favorite.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, for sure, although I had to pause it occasionally to look up great mathematicians or mathematical ideas to get more detail (Poincare and topology especially).

7 people found this helpful

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Fantastic Mathematical History Journey

Well written and researched exploration of the lives of 20+ significant Mathematical figures across the last 2500 years. As the author acknowledges, some favorites have been left out for sure, but a good and intriguing list. The narration is a bit study though, and imposed an unnecessary formality and inapproachability to this work. Luckily, the English cigar parlor overtone can be overcome, and the book enjoyed in its own right.

4 people found this helpful

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narration grating, often difficult to understand

Although essentially another defense of the outdated undergraduate math curriculum, it has some interesting insights and is worth the read. But the narration is painfully difficult to listen to. Inconsistent and incorrect pronunciation - e.g., sometimes "Goss" and sometimes "Gas" and ocassionally "Gauss", but always uhler and Kuht Goodle. Never says parentheses. Always says bracket. Never says "of". Instead "eff open bracket ex close bracket". Ruins a serviceable collection of biographies

3 people found this helpful

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Pronounce the names mathematicians correctly

Any additional comments?

Should take the extra effort to have someone review the pronunciation of main subjects names! Euler is oi-ler - not as it looks like in English.

9 people found this helpful

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A terrible narration of a great book

I really like the author, his writing, and his choice of significant mathematicians. However, the narration was horrible. I have studied mathematics in both the USA and the UK, culminating in a PhD, and I can certify for you that nearly every last name has been pronounced incorrectly. Moreover, the narrator clearly doesn't know high school algebra, because he mispronounced very common terms. What was spectacularly painful to the ears was the attempt to read formulas, and even the start of sequences and series, verbally. Instead of reading f(5) as "f of 5" he would say "f open brackets five close brackets." For more complex formulas, it was truly absurd.

4 people found this helpful

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Narrator Roger Clark's accent legit

Roger Clark was born in New Jersey, raised in Ireland and trained in the U.K. He attended University of Glamorgan in Cardiff, Wales and achieved a BA in Theatre, Media and Drama. His professional acting debut was in 2000 with the Wales Actor's company and their production of 'Juno and the Paycock'. Most of his resume lies in theatre, voice over, television and motion capture. He has performed in a total of 45 countries and now lives and works in New York. --IMDB bio

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Research pronunciations before you perform!

I can't imagine putting my name and voice to an internationally-distributed production without doing some basic research on how to pronounce things. "Euler" is pronounced "Oiler" not "Yooler".

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Dull story, terrible narration, and more.

Perhaps this story is better in print. Or perhaps it got much better after the first five chapters, after which I stopped listening. Listening to it is terribly dull. (And I am a mathematician and love mathematics.). I will never get another audio book by this author or with this narrator. Of particular annoyance was the fact that the narrator routinely mispronounced the names of the mathematicians in the book. When a book is about famous people, the narrator is obligated to learn how to pronounce the names of the people.

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Mostly entertaining while touching some deeper mathematical concepts

Good narrative, most chapters move at a good pace. Nicely gently touches some deeper math. Audio version just not fully convincing: did the narrator fully understand everything?