"An ingenious overview of biology with emphasis on mathematical ideasstimulating."Kirkus
"Stewart flexes his mathematical muscles when he explores concepts like symmetrical viruses and puzzle-solving slime moulds. As always, he explains complicated mathematical ideas brilliantly."New Scientist
"A timely account of why biologists and mathematicians are hooking up at last.... Stewart is Britain's most brilliant and prolific populariser of mathematics.... Mathematics of Life is dense with information, written with Stewart's characteristic lightness of touch and will please the dedicated maths reader.... [T]he book is a testament to the versatility of maths and how it is shaping our understanding of the world."The Guardian
"It is difficult to find many biologists who enjoy math, or vice versa, but British number cruncher Ian Stewart successfully crosses over. Here he argues that solving some of the biggest scientific mysteries, including life's origins and prevalence in the universe, hinges on a union of these fields. He skillfully recasts the history of biology within a mathematical context...then applies his left-brained perspective to the hot new field of astrobiology. Bio majors: Try the book, then bite the bullet and enroll in Math 101."Discover
"Though a complete understanding of how mathematics pries secrets out of nature requires long and rigorous study, Stewart conveys to general readers the fundamental axioms with lucidly accessible writing, supplemented with helpful charts and illustrations.... A rewarding adventure for the armchair scientist."Booklist
"The Mathematics of Life is at its best in discussing the role that the discipline has played in our understanding of viruses.... Mr. Stewart's discussion of the intersection of viruses and geometry, and other topics, is absorbing." Keith Devlin, Wall Street Journal
"Stewart revels in intellectual wanderlust, taking us from explanations of why Fibonnaci's sequence shows up so often in nature to rather in-depth treatments of evolutionary theory to number-crunching the possibilities of life on other planets.... Stewart is great at communicating wonder, but it's often his skepticism that makes The Mathematics of Lifesuch an enjoyable read-you get the sense that as a man who fully grasps numbers, he doesn't take kindly to how frequently they are abused in mainstream treatments of science."Boston Globe
"In this engaging overview, a mathematician describes how the field of biomathematics is answering key questions about the natural world and the origins of life."Science News
In the past, students who loved science but hated math studied biology. That won't work today, writes the prolific emeritus professor of Mathematics at Britain's Warwick University, who explains why in his usual enthusiastic but definitely not dumbed-down style.
Physical scientists joked about biologists as "stamp collectors," and this was not far off until Victorian times, as they happily occupied themselves discovering and describing living things. By 1850, botanists counting flower petals wondered why they almost always came up with 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55—the well-known series called Fibonacci numbers. Mystical speculation abounded until 20th-century research proved that the dynamics of growing plants forces cells into specific mathematical relationships. Having dipped the reader's toe into his specialty, Stewart (Cows in the Maze: And Other Mathematical Explorations, 2010, etc.) proceeds to deliver a history of biology followed by a tour of current research. A fine chapter on Darwin and evolution contains almost no mathematics. The story of genetics, all the way up to the Human Genome Project, demands grade-school arithmetic to understand Mendel's rules of heredity. Readers with painful memories of high-school algebra will feel reassured because Stewart accessibly explains population growth, speciation, brain function, chaos and game theory, networking, symmetry and even the mechanism that produces animal stripes and spots. The lack of equations does not imply simplicity, however; all chapters begin with basics, but readers without a scientific background will struggle to finish more than one.
An ingenious overview of biology with emphasis on mathematical ideas—stimulating but requiring careful reading despite the lack of equations.