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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » A Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable » User review

Be sure you understand what you're buying!

  • Jul 31, 2010
Perhaps I should state what I think should have been made a little more obvious. Clegg's "A Brief History of Infinity" is not a mathematics book. It is definitely a history book. In fact, it outlines the history of man's struggle to come to grips with the exceedingly complex and devilishly bewildering concept of infinity. Of necessity, of course, it touches on matters mathematical but the meat of this book is the history.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF INFINITY delves into man's contemplation of matters infinite from the earliest days of its discussion by Greek philosophers, to St Augustine's theological musings of creation, to Leibniz and Newton battling over bragging rights for the creation of calculus, to Cantor's transfinite numbers and even to the implications of infinity in quantum physics.

Having noted that the book is more focused on history than mathematics, it's definitely worth pointing out that the mathematics would still be daunting for a complete neophyte. That said, my hope was for somewhat more mathematics and a little less of the historical background. For example, I found the section on Leibniz and Newton's battles with Bishop Berkley over infinitesimals quite dreary and plodding.

But, the misunderstanding as to the exact nature of the book can probably be laid more my doorstep. A more careful examination of previous reviews and the marketing info on the book cover would have better informed me as to what I was stepping into.


Paul Weiss

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Paul Weiss ()
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   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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