Overview

Fascinating Mathematical People is a collection of informal interviews and memoirs of sixteen prominent members of the mathematical community of the twentieth century, many still active. The candid portraits collected here demonstrate that while these men and women vary widely in terms of their backgrounds, life stories, and worldviews, they all share a deep and abiding sense of wonder about mathematics.

Featured here--in their own words--are major research mathematicians whose ...

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Fascinating Mathematical People: Interviews and Memoirs

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Overview

Fascinating Mathematical People is a collection of informal interviews and memoirs of sixteen prominent members of the mathematical community of the twentieth century, many still active. The candid portraits collected here demonstrate that while these men and women vary widely in terms of their backgrounds, life stories, and worldviews, they all share a deep and abiding sense of wonder about mathematics.

Featured here--in their own words--are major research mathematicians whose cutting-edge discoveries have advanced the frontiers of the field, such as Lars Ahlfors, Mary Cartwright, Dusa McDuff, and Atle Selberg. Others are leading mathematicians who have also been highly influential as teachers and mentors, like Tom Apostol and Jean Taylor. Fern Hunt describes what it was like to be among the first black women to earn a PhD in mathematics. Harold Bacon made trips to Alcatraz to help a prisoner learn calculus. Thomas Banchoff, who first became interested in the fourth dimension while reading a Captain Marvel comic, relates his fascinating friendship with Salvador Dalí and their shared passion for art, mathematics, and the profound connection between the two. Other mathematical people found here are Leon Bankoff, who was also a Beverly Hills dentist; Arthur Benjamin, a part-time professional magician; and Joseph Gallian, a legendary mentor of future mathematicians, but also a world-renowned expert on the Beatles.

This beautifully illustrated collection includes many photographs never before published, concise introductions by the editors to each person, and a foreword by Philip J. Davis.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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Editorial Reviews

Nature
What do a Beatles expert, a professional magician and a Los Angeles dentist have in common? If they're Joseph Gallian, Arthur Benjamin and Leon Bankoff, it's mathematics. The words of these and other researchers, mentors and teachers in the maths community feature in this compilation by educator Donald Albers and mathematician Gerald Alexanderson. There is much to relish in these accounts—not least geometer Thomas Banchoff's friendship with Salvador Dalí, who explored the nexus of atomic science, maths and art late in life.
CTK Insights
A beautifully illustrated collection of interviews and biographical etudes of 16 mathematicians of different backgrounds, varied professional interests, diverse level of achievement—all incredibly interesting as human beings. . . . [A]n awfully good and entertaining read.
— Alexander Bogomolny
Choice
This book is an assortment of interviews and memoirs of 16 contemporary mathematicians with a variety of backgrounds. The volume includes some unique, never-published photographs of the mathematicians—at work and/or with their families—that add a nice personal touch. As this reviewer read about these individuals, she found herself wanting to know more about them, and even considering inviting one to be a guest speaker at a math club meeting. . . . [Fascinating Mathematical People] would be a useful supplementary resource for an undergraduate history of mathematics class; it would also be a valuable work for students to browse on their own.
— J.A. Bakal
European Mathematical Society Newsletter
[T]his is a book to discontinuous reading: one picks it at leisure, takes a look at the contents and chooses what to read. No order is required, nor any systematic dedication, but in the end one sure will read it all.
— Jesús M. Ruiz
CTK Insights - Alexander Bogomolny
A beautifully illustrated collection of interviews and biographical etudes of 16 mathematicians of different backgrounds, varied professional interests, diverse level of achievement—all incredibly interesting as human beings. . . . [A]n awfully good and entertaining read.
Choice - J.A. Bakal
This book is an assortment of interviews and memoirs of 16 contemporary mathematicians with a variety of backgrounds. The volume includes some unique, never-published photographs of the mathematicians—at work and/or with their families—that add a nice personal touch. As this reviewer read about these individuals, she found herself wanting to know more about them, and even considering inviting one to be a guest speaker at a math club meeting. . . . [Fascinating Mathematical People] would be a useful supplementary resource for an undergraduate history of mathematics class; it would also be a valuable work for students to browse on their own.
European Mathematical Society Newsletter - Jesus M. Ruiz
[T]his is a book to discontinuous reading: one picks it at leisure, takes a look at the contents and chooses what to read. No order is required, nor any systematic dedication, but in the end one sure will read it all.
European Mathematical Society Newsletter - Jesús M. Ruiz
[T]his is a book to discontinuous reading: one picks it at leisure, takes a look at the contents and chooses what to read. No order is required, nor any systematic dedication, but in the end one sure will read it all.
Mathematics Teacher - Dorothy Janice Radin
Interesting personal sketches of mathematicians at work and at home. . . . For students considering a career in mathematics, this book can be an enlightening read. For readers who are already mathematicians, it gives insight into some mathematical history of the twentieth century.
Mathematics Today - Wallace A Ferguson
An enjoyable read and learning experience.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2012 Book Merit Award in the Professional, Reference category, New York Book Show

"What do a Beatles expert, a professional magician and a Los Angeles dentist have in common? If they're Joseph Gallian, Arthur Benjamin and Leon Bankoff, it's mathematics. The words of these and other researchers, mentors and teachers in the maths community feature in this compilation by educator Donald Albers and mathematician Gerald Alexanderson. There is much to relish in these accounts—not least geometer Thomas Banchoff's friendship with Salvador Dalí, who explored the nexus of atomic science, maths and art late in life."—Nature

"Albers and Alexanderson pick up where they left off from their earlier books, Mathematical People and More Mathematical People, with profiles of 16 unique individuals involved in all areas of mathematics teaching and research. . . . A handy way to learn about contemporary mathematic ideas and interrelated areas of research, the book seems more like a dinner party filled with intriguing personalities than a textbook. . . . Strongly recommended for readers interested in mathematics and anyone wanting to understand the creative process."—Elizabeth Brown, Library Journal (starred review)

"A beautifully illustrated collection of interviews and biographical etudes of 16 mathematicians of different backgrounds, varied professional interests, diverse level of achievement—all incredibly interesting as human beings. . . . [A]n awfully good and entertaining read."—Alexander Bogomolny, CTK Insights

"This book is an assortment of interviews and memoirs of 16 contemporary mathematicians with a variety of backgrounds. The volume includes some unique, never-published photographs of the mathematicians—at work and/or with their families—that add a nice personal touch. As this reviewer read about these individuals, she found herself wanting to know more about them, and even considering inviting one to be a guest speaker at a math club meeting. . . . [Fascinating Mathematical People] would be a useful supplementary resource for an undergraduate history of mathematics class; it would also be a valuable work for students to browse on their own."—J.A. Bakal, Choice

"[T]his is a book to discontinuous reading: one picks it at leisure, takes a look at the contents and chooses what to read. No order is required, nor any systematic dedication, but in the end one sure will read it all."—Jesús M. Ruiz, European Mathematical Society Newsletter

"Interesting personal sketches of mathematicians at work and at home. . . . For students considering a career in mathematics, this book can be an enlightening read. For readers who are already mathematicians, it gives insight into some mathematical history of the twentieth century."—Dorothy Janice Radin, Mathematics Teacher

"It is packed with anecdotes and suitable for the general reader or historian. A range of themes are introduced in the preface raising the potential for a more specialized biographical insight. An enjoyable read and learning experience."—Wallace A Ferguson, Mathematics Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400839551
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 352
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Donald J. Albers is senior acquisitions editor at the Mathematical Association of America. Gerald L. Alexanderson is the Michael and Elizabeth Valeriote Professor of Science at Santa Clara University. They are the editors of "Mathematical People: Profiles and Interviews" and "More Mathematical People: Contemporary Conversations."
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Table of Contents

Foreword by Philip J. Davis vii
Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii
Sources xv

One: Lars V. Ahlfors 1
Two: Tom Apostol 17
Three: Harold M. Bacon 43
Four: Tom Banchoff 52
Five: Leon Bankoff 79
Six: Alice Beckenbach 96
Seven: Arthur Benjamin 107
Eight: Dame Mary L. Cartwright 129
Nine: Joe Gallian 146
Ten: Richard K. Guy 165
Eleven: Fern Hunt 193
Twelve: Dusa McDuff 215
Thirteen: Donald G. Saari 240
Fourteen: Atle Selberg 254
Fifteen: Jean Taylor 274
Sixteen: Philippe Tondeur 294

Biographical Notes 319
Glossary 321
Index 325

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