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New York Times MagazineLoving and Hating Mathematics, by Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner: Mathematicians also happen to be full of emotion.
— Tyler Cowen
Mathematics is often thought of as the coldest expression of pure reason. But few subjects provoke hotter emotions--and inspire more love and hatred--than mathematics. And although math is frequently idealized as floating above the messiness of human life, its story is nothing if not human; often, it is all too human. Loving and Hating Mathematics is about the hidden human, emotional, and social forces that shape mathematics and affect the experiences of students and mathematicians. Written in a lively, accessible style, and filled with gripping stories and anecdotes, Loving and Hating Mathematics brings home the intense pleasures and pains of mathematical life.
These stories challenge many myths, including the notions that mathematics is a solitary pursuit and a "young man's game," the belief that mathematicians are emotionally different from other people, and even the idea that to be a great mathematician it helps to be a little bit crazy. Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner tell stories of lives in math from their very beginnings through old age, including accounts of teaching and mentoring, friendships and rivalries, love affairs and marriages, and the experiences of women and minorities in a field that has traditionally been unfriendly to both. Included here are also stories of people for whom mathematics has been an immense solace during times of crisis, war, and even imprisonment--as well as of those rare individuals driven to insanity and even murder by an obsession with math.
This is a book for anyone who wants to understand why the most rational of human endeavors is at the same time one of the most emotional.
"Mathematics gets a bad press. Its practitioners are often portrayed as aloof hyper-rationalists with oodles of logic but no emotional intelligence. Not so, say mathematician Reuben Hersh and linguist Vera John-Steiner. Focusing on the emotional side of the discipline, they reveal mathematicians' passions, collaborations and love affairs. The stories range from those who sought solace in equations to some who were driven to murder by a maths obsession."--Nature
"Wisely used, the book could infuse the important issue of students' emotions into debates about mathematics education . . ."--Lynn Arthur Steen, Science
"[T]he volume is quite entertaining, surprising in parts, and mostly convincing in its myth-demolition assignment."--Library Journal
"A book rescuing the full humanity of mathematicians from misleading stereotypes."--Booklist
"[A] provocative new book. . . . This thoroughly entertaining book highlights vitally important issues [in mathematics]."--Tony Mann, Times Higher Education
"I do recommend the work to the interested mathematics observer . . . especially if you already love mathematics."--Math-Frolic blog
"There's material for a thousand movie scripts in the vignettes--warm, funny, tragic or horrifying--that stud the pages of Loving and Hating Mathematics. . . . [The authors] aim to put a human face on the impulses that drive us to--or from--math. . . . The book offers insights into an important world invisible to many of us."--Albuquerque Journal
"The book is heady with mathematical aha moments and will serve brilliantly as a virtual support group for mathematicians who feel isolated by the false notion that mathematicians are isolated."--Santa Fe New Mexican
"When it comes to the culture of mathematics, there are a few books by mathematicians, aimed at a general audience, that are extremely popular with mathematics faculty. As these books have aged, dozens more have appeared that reproduce some of their best quotes and anecdotes. Fortunately, Hersh and John-Steiner have gone beyond these classic sources and made use of many others. They have also included their own insights so that even an interested individual with a broad background will find much that is new in this up-to-date volume--enough to easily justify purchasing the work. For someone with a more limited exposure to popular mathematics, their book is even better."--Choice
"[A]n entertaining, useful, and provocative book. . . . I recommend this book for school and university libraries, and for prizes. It is priced to be affordable by the public, and worth owning."--Anthony G. O'Farrell, Irish Mathematical Society Bulletin
"The inner circle of pure mathematicians will respond to the book with delight."--Philip J. Davis, SIAM News
"The descriptions in Loving and Hating are sympathetic and understandable. The lives that Hersh and John-Steiner have led have allowed them to get up-close and personal with a species (mathematicians, and more generally people whose work is creative thinking) whose world many people don't ordinarily get to see, and may welcome a window into."--Jonathan M. Borwein and Judy-anne Osborn, Mathematical Intelligencer
"[Loving and Hating Mathematics] . . . is easy to read; one does not need a degree in mathematics to make sense of the content. A major strength is the attention given to mathematicians of different nationalities, genders, and ethnicities. . . . I recommend this book to all mathematicians and mathematics educators."--Mathematics Teacher
"One can expect this book to become a classic. We can be thankful the octogenarian authors didn't believe Hardy."--Robert E. O'malley, Jr, SIAM Review
"Loving and Hating is a book filled with gems. We could open it on any page and find something interesting. It is imbued with the authors' love of mathematics and respect for people. The message that mathematics is a fundamentally human activity, in which people can find meaning and joy, is clearly conveyed. . . . This book may be of special interest to graduate students in mathematics as part of an introduction to the stories and culture of the community that they are joining."--Jonathan M. Borwein and Judy-Anne Osborn, Mathematical Intelligencer
"This is a marvelous book. . . . On the pages of this book there is always something more to keep one from putting it down. . . . [T]his deftly written exploration of the strengths and foibles of mathematicians we see that on the whole mathematicians may not be all that different from those who have intellectually gone in other directions. Doing mathematics, like many other professional endeavors, is a human activity. Reading this book is unfailingly informative--it's also a lot of fun to read."--Gerald L. Alexanderson, American Mathematical Monthly