Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner

“Many people believe that mathematics is the iciest manifestation of rational thought. However, there are few topics that elicit more love and hate than mathematics. The tale of arithmetic is nothing if not human; in many cases, it is all too human, despite the widespread idealization of math as existing above the chaos of human life. The book Loving and Hating Mathematics explores the unseen social, emotional, and human variables that influence mathematics and impact both students’ and mathematicians’ lives. Loving and Hating Mathematics captures the profound pleasures and frustrations of a mathematical existence in a colorful, approachable style and with the help of compelling stories and anecdotes.

These tales dispel a number of clichés, such as the assumption that mathematics is a solitary activity and a “young man’s game,” the notion that mathematicians are emotionally distinct from other people, and even the notion that it helps to be a little bit crazy to be a brilliant mathematician. Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner recount the lives of mathematicians from their earliest days to their later years. They discuss teaching and mentoring, friendships and rivalries, relationships and marriages, and the experiences of women and underrepresented groups in a field that has historically been hostile to both. Stories of persons for whom mathematics has provided enormous comfort through times of crisis, war, and even jail are also included here, as are those rare individuals who have been driven to insanity and even murder by a mathematical passion.

This book is for everyone who wants to comprehend why one of humankind’s most logical pursuits is also one of its most emotional.”