Francis Su

In the opinion of mathematician Francis Su, a society devoid of mathematical affection is analogous to a city devoid of concerts, parks, and museums. Missing out on mathematics is to miss out on some of the most beautiful ideas that humanity has ever come up with.

The author, an award-winning mathematician, and educator weaves parables, puzzles, and personal reflections into this profound book, written for a broad audience but especially for those whose past experiences have disenchanted. He demonstrates how mathematics meets basic human desires—such as those for play, beauty, freedom, justice, and love—and cultivates virtues essential for human flourishing. These needs and virtues, as well as the experiences described here, demonstrate how mathematics is inextricably linked to the experience of being human.

Some lessons can be learned from those who have struggled, such as philosopher Simone Weil, whose own mathematical contributions were overshadowed by her brother’s, and Christopher Jackson, who discovered mathematics while imprisoned in federal prison. Other lessons can be learned from those who have succeeded, such as Alan Turing. Christopher’s letters to the author are interspersed throughout the book, demonstrating how this intellectual quest can—and must—be available to anybody who wishes to participate.