Trigonometry has always been an underappreciated branch of mathematics. It has a reputation as a dry and difficult subject, a glorified form of geometry complicated by tedious computation. In this book, Eli Maor draws on his remarkable talents as a guide to the world of numbers to dispel that view. Rejecting the usual arid descriptions of sine, cosine, and their trigonometric relatives, he brings the subject to life in a compelling blend of history, biography, and mathematics. He presents both a survey of the main elements of trigonometry and a unique account of its vital contribution to science and social development. Woven together in a tapestry of entertaining stories, scientific curiosities, and educational insights, the book more than lives up to the title Trigonometric Delights. ?
Maor, whose previous books have demystified the concept of infinity and the unusual number "e," begins by examining the "proto-trigonometry" of the Egyptian pyramid builders. He shows how Greek astronomers developed the first true trigonometry. He traces the slow emergence of modern, analytical trigonometry, recounting its colorful origins in Renaissance Europe's quest for more accurate artillery, more precise clocks, and more pleasing musical instruments. Along the way, we see trigonometry at work in, for example, the struggle of the famous mapmaker Gerardus Mercator to represent the curved earth on a flat sheet of paper; we see how M. C. Escher used geometric progressions in his art; and we learn how the toy Spirograph uses epicycles and hypocycles.
Maor also sketches the lives of some of the intriguing figures who have shaped four thousand years of trigonometric history. We meet, for instance, the Renaissance scholar Regiomontanus, who is rumored to have been poisoned for insulting a colleague, and Maria Agnesi, an eighteenth-century Italian genius who gave up mathematics to work with the poor--but not before she investigated a special curve that, due to mistranslation, bears the unfortunate name "the witch of Agnesi." The book is richly illustrated, including rare prints from the author's own collection. Trigonometric Delights will change forever our view of a once dreaded subject.
Eli Maor teaches the history of mathematics at Loyola University in Chicago. He is the author of To Infinity and Beyond, e: The Story of a Number, Venus in Transit, and The Pythagorean Theorem: A 4,000-Year History.
Table of Contents
Preface xi Prologue: Ahmes the Scribe, 1650 B.C. 3 Recreational Mathematics in Ancient Egypt 11 1.Angles 15 2.Chords 20 Plimpton 322: The Earliest Trigonometric Table? 30 3.Six Functions Come of Age 35 Johann Müller, alias Regiomontanus 41 4.Trigonometry Becomes Analytic 50 Francois Viète 56 5.Measuring Heaven and Earth 63 Abraham De Moivre 80 6.Two Theorems from Geometry 87 7.Epicycloids and Hypocycloids 95 Maria Agnesi and Her "Witch" 108 8.Variations on a Theme by Gauss 112 9.Had Zeno Only Known This! 117 10.(sin x)/x 129 11.A Remarkable Formula 139 Jules Lissajous and His Figures 145 12.tan x 150 13.A Mapmaker's Paradise 165 14.sin x = 2: Imaginary Trigonometry 181 Edmund Landau: The Master Rigorist 192 15. Fourier's Theorem 198 Appendixes 211 1.Let's Revive an Old Idea 213 2.Barrow's Integration of sec ø 218 3.Some Trigonometric Gems 220 4.Some Special Values of sin α 222 Bibliography 225 Credits for Illustrations 229 Index 231
[Maor] writes enthusiastically and engagingly. . . . Delightful reading from cover to cover. Trigonometric Delights is a welcome addition. Sean Bradley, Mathematical Association of America
If you think trigonometry has no more surprises for you, read Trigonometric Delights. Eli Maor will change your mind. The book presents the subject and its history the way they should be presentedit's a delight to read. Paul J. Nahin, author of "Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers"
This is a rich and challenging book that will appeal to mathematicians and should help attract a newer generation to the subject. By putting the history back into trigonometry, Maor tells the many stories of trigonometry, and shows that what is often regarded as a collection of dry techniques is really a marvelous testament to thousands of years of human ingenuity and intellectual creativity. Keith Devlin, author of "Mathematics: The Science of Patterns" and "Goodbye Descartes"
Maor eases the reader from the mathematical puzzles of the Rhind Papyrus all the way to infinite series and the analysis of music produced by vibrating strings. Along the course, he leads a grand tour of the lovely but often neglected area of mathematics called trigonometry. Jerry P. King, Professor of Mathematics at Lehigh University
Here is trigonometry viewed through the lens of historya rich, intriguing book that will leave readers shouting for Maor. William Durham, author of "The Mathematical Universe".
This book will appeal to a general audience interested in the history of mathematics. I highly recommend [it] to teachers who would like to ground their lessons in the sort of mathematical investigations that were undertaken throughout history. Richard S. Kitchen, Mathematics Teacher
The author . . . has built knowledge into artistic fiction. The New York Times
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