The Artist and the Mathematician: The Story of Nicolas Bourbaki, the Genius Mathematician Who Never Existed

The Artist and the Mathematician: The Story of Nicolas Bourbaki, the Genius Mathematician Who Never Existed

by Amir D. Aczel
     
 

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Nicolas Bourbaki, whose mathematical publications began to appear in the late 1930s and continued to be published through most of the twentieth century, was a direct product as well as a major force behind an important revolution that took place in the early decades of the twentieth century that completely changed Western culture. Pure mathematics, the area of

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Overview

Nicolas Bourbaki, whose mathematical publications began to appear in the late 1930s and continued to be published through most of the twentieth century, was a direct product as well as a major force behind an important revolution that took place in the early decades of the twentieth century that completely changed Western culture. Pure mathematics, the area of Bourbaki's work, seems on the surface to be an abstract field of human study with no direct connection with the real world. In reality, however, it is closely intertwined with the general culture that surrounds it. Major developments in mathematics have often followed important trends in popular culture; developments in mathematics have acted as harbingers of change in the surrounding human culture. The seeds of change, the beginnings of the revolution that swept the Western world in the early decades of the twentieth century — both in mathematics and in other areas — were sown late in the previous century. This is the story both of Bourbaki and the world that created him in that time. It is the story of an elaborate intellectual joke — because Bourbaki, one of the foremost mathematicians of his day — never existed.

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Editorial Reviews

Nicolas Bourbaki etched a name in mathematics history without ever showing his face. His papers on advanced math subjects began appearing in the mid-1930s; they soon became key documents for advocates of theory with no direct connection to the real world. In The Artist and the Mathematician, Amir Aczel (author of Fermat's Last Theorem and The Mystery of the Aleph) charts the career of a mathematician so theoretical that he never existed.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568583594
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
10/04/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Amir D. Aczel, a visiting scholar in the history of science at Harvard, earned both his B.A. in mathematics and master of sciences degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. His books have been translated into fifteen languages. He lives outside Boston.

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