Saunders Mac Lane: A Mathematical Autobiography

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Saunders Mac Lane was an extraordinary mathematician, a dedicated teacher, and a good citizen who cared deeply about the values of science and education. In his autobiography, he gives us a glimpse of his "life and times," mixing the highly personal with professional observations. His recollections bring to life a century of extraordinary accomplishments and tragedies that inspire and educate. Saunders Mac Lane's life covers nearly a century of mathematical developments. During the earlier part of the twentieth century, he participated in the exciting happenings in Göttingen—-the Mecca of mathematics. He studied under David Hilbert, Hermann Weyl, and Paul Bernays and witnessed the collapse of a great tradition under the political pressure of a brutal dictatorship. Later, he contributed to the more abstract and general mathematical viewpoints developed in the twentieth century. Perhaps the most outstanding accomplishment during his long and extraordinary career was the development of the concept of categories, together with Samuel Eilenberg, and the creation of a theory that has broad applications in different areas of mathematics, in particular topology and foundations. He was also a keen observer and active participant in the social and political events. As a member and vice president of the National Academy of Science and an advisor to the Administration, he exerted considerable influence on science and education policies in the post-war period. Mac Lane's autobiography takes the reader on a journey through the most important milestones of the mathematical world in the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
" Mac Lane is an immense presence in modern mathematics. One of the last Americans to be educated in Göttingen prior to the Nazi era, Mac Lane was ideally and propitiously situated to become a leader in modern algebra and modern algebraic topology. His influence on our subject has been powerful and widespread. This chronicle tells of an influential and important life. -Steven G. Krantz, Washington University in St. Louis, March 2005

""Studying mathematics in high school or even college rarely gives you a sense of what mathematical research is all about..."" -Ivars Peterson, Science News Online, April 2005

""Saunders Mac Lane war einer der Mathematiker, die die Forschung fast des gesamten 20. Jahrhunderts miterlebt und mitgestaltet haben..."" -George Szpiro, NZZ am Sonntag, October 2005

""Saunders Mac Lane, who died April 14, 2005, at 95, remains well-known for his seminal work incategory theory, homological algebra, algebraic topology, etc. and was active in mathematics and public service until late in his life."" -Lance W. Small, Notices of the AMS, November 2005

""Here is the personalized and deftly written story of a century of extraordinary accomplishments and tragedies that will inform and inspire future generations of aspiring mathematicians and is therefore an essential addition to all college and university library collections."" -Willis M. Buhle, Midwest Book Review, November 2005

""In reading his autobiography, I feel that I have been given the gift of a small window into his life and his thoughts."" -Amy Shell-Gellasch, MAA Online, February 2006

""This book is an excellent autobiography written by one of the greatest 20th century mathematicians Saunders Mac Lane."" -Newsletter of the European Mathematical Society , June 2006

""This is a splendid book... Despite the word 'mathematical' in the title... this is a book for the non-specialist reader as well as the mathematician [revealing] many fascinating insights into the characters of the people and institutions with which the author came into contact during his long career."" -Peter Johnstone, Mathematiacl Reviews, August 2006

""It takes a rare personality to write an autobiography and an even rarer one to write an autobiography with candour ... this book is a 'must read' for anyone interested in the history of 20th-century American mathematics and for anyone interested in the history of category theory, homological algebra, and homotopy theory."" -K.V.H. Parshall, History and Philosophy of Logic, February 2007

""Ein fast hundertjähriges Gelehhrtenleben tut sich vor uns auf! ... Wie nicht anders zu erwarten wird uns viel Interessantes über eine lange Epoche aus mathematischer Sicht geboten ... Die Aufmachung des Bandes ist gediegen und ansprechend - fester Deckel, hübsche Fotografien und augenschonendes Papier. Ich las diese Biographie mit Freude und Gewinn."" -Internationale Mathematische Nachrichten, April 2007

""...this is a fascinating look at the history of twentieth century mathematics by one of its most distinguished practitioners."" -Gerry Leversha, St Paul's School, London, The Mathematical Gazette, November 2007

""Saunders Mac Lane was one of the most influencial mathematicians of the 20th century ... In his autobiography, Saunders reveals detials of his early life and education as well as those of the relationships that were so critical in the development of his career."" -John MacDonald, CMS Notes, April 2008"

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568811505
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 6/6/2005
  • Pages: 354
  • Sales rank: 1,511,387
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.22 (d)

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