Perfect for history buffs and armchair algebra experts, Unknown Quantity tells the story of the development of abstract mathematical thought.
John Derbyshire discovers the story behind the formulae, roots, and radicals. As he did so masterfully in Prime Obsession, Derbyshire brings the evolution of mathematical thinking to dramatic life by focusing on the key historical players. Unknown Quantity begins in the time of Abraham and Isaac and moves from Abel’s proof to the higher levels of abstraction developed by Galois through modern-day advances. Derbyshire explains how a simple turn of thought from “this plus this equals this” to “this plus what equals this?” gave birth to a whole new way of perceiving the world. With a historian’s narrative authority and a beloved teacher’s clarity and passion, Derbyshire leads readers on an intellectually satisfying and pleasantly challenging historical and mathematical journey.
JOHN DERBYSHIRE is a contributing editor for National Review, where he writes a regular column. He also contributes regularly to National Review Online and writes frequently for a number of other publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the American Conservative,… More about John Derbyshire