James Joseph Sylvester: Life and Work in Letters

James Joseph Sylvester: Life and Work in Letters

by Karen Hunger Parshall


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In the folklore of mathematics, James Joseph Sylvester (1814-1897) is the eccentric, hot-tempered, sword-cane-wielding, nineteenth-century British Jew who, together with the taciturn Arthur Cayley, developed a theory and language of invariants that then died spectacularly in the 1890s as a result of David Hilbert's groundbreaking, 'modern' techniques. This, like all folklore, has some grounding in fact but owes much to fiction. The present volume brings together for the first time 140 letters from Sylvester's correspondence in an effort to establish a truer picture. Providing detailed mathematical and historical commentary, the author describes Sylvester in his diverse roles—friend, man of principle, mathematician, poet, professor, scientific activist, social observer, and traveller—and provides a close look at Sylvester's ideas and thought processes. The complex portrait that emerges offers deep insights on both the professional and personal lives of mathematicians.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199671380
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 04/06/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 340
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Karen Hunger Parshall is Professor of History and Mathematics at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the life, times, and mathematical work of James Joseph Sylvester.

Table of Contents

1. Negotiating 'the world's slippery path'
2. Laying the foundation of a theory of invariants
3. Battling the authorities and the muses
4. Ending and beginning a career
5. 'Moulding the mathematical education of 55 million' Americans
6. Returning home

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