A book by Kevin Houston

A book by David Blatner

No number has captured the attention and imaginations of people throughout the ages as much as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. With incisive historical insight and a refreshing sense of humor, David Blatner explores the many … see full wiki

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This is a delightful little book covering the history of pi, the most famous number in mathematics. Unlike some other books, the advances made in East Asia throughout history are also mentioned. To me, the most fascinating aspect covered appears on pages 104 and 105. They chronicle the bill that went through the Indiana legislature in 1897 that would have required schools in the state to teach a grossly inaccurate value of pi and that everyone outside the state would have to pay royalties to use this value. The bill mandating this passed the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously. Fortunately, a math professor was visiting the legislature on that day and learned what had transpired. The bill became bogged down in the Indiana Senate and was eventually tabled. It appears that no action has been taken on it since that time.
+5

The other elements of the history of pi are not quite so wild, but certainly are interesting. Until the middle of the twentieth century, advances in the knowledge of the number of digits of pi have mirrored progress in mathematics. Recently, the advances have mirrored progress in computer science. At this time, one of the best ways to test hardware performance is to run a program that computes the digits of pi.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it as light reading in the history of mathematics. It would also make an excellent resource for presentations in the history of mathematics.

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