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Unformatted text preview: "Once we venture beyond the rudiments," says Bell, "we may agree that those who cultivate mathematics have more interesting things to say about it than those who merely venerate." No more eloquent substantiation of this assertion could be wished for than this book in which it appears. A cultivator himself, Bell requires no introduction to mathematicians. He knows mathematical creation--its trials and its rewards--at first hand. Nor does he need introduction to the wider reading public. It seems, however, that in this work he has risen to a new level of accomplishment, which merits the genuine appreciation of all those who regard mathematics and its related sciences as a vital field of human activity, and find interest in the history of their development. This is an eminently readable book, written in an engaging and graceful style. At the same time it is a scholarly work with a wholly serious purpose, full of information and fact, and covering much material which is otherwise not easily accessible. As the keynote of the book Bell sounds an old quotation: "There is probably no other science which presents such different appearances to one who cultivates it and to one who does not, as mathematics. To [the noncultivator] it is ancient, venerable, and complete; a body of dry, irrefutable, unambiguous reasoning. To the mathematician, on the other hand, his science is in the purple bloom of vigorous youth, everywhere stretching out after the attainable but unattained, and full of the excitement of nascent thoughts; its logic beset with ambiguities, and its analytic processes, like Bunyan's road, have a quagmire on one side and a deep ditch on the other, and branch off into innumerable by-paths that end in a wilderness." To the student of mathematics the historical development of his subject appears all too inevitably as a wilderness, and moreover as an almost...
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- Spring '10
- eminently readable book