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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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Derek
  • Buffalo, NY
  • 11-23-17

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

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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).

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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excellent, but tough listen

probably the most rewarding history book that I've ever listened to. I need to give the guy who read the audio book a lot of credit, but I can't remember his name. He did a really good job though. Not all of that stuff is easy to talk about and sound excited. I'm not even sure that it's appropriate to sound excited. I liked it anyway. I learned a lot about all of these people some of them I didn't even really know existed and others I knew of but I gained a lot of insight on who they were from this book.