The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction

Jacqueline Stedall

Get ready to uncover the fascinating journey of mathematics in Jacqueline Stedall’s The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction. In this concise but comprehensive book, Stedall explores themes of progress, failure, and the collaboration between mathematicians throughout history.

Unlike traditional linear approaches, Stedall takes a wider perspective, encompassing the contributions of mathematicians from all corners of the world, including the well-documented era of post-15th century Western European mathematics.

By delving into the scarcity and format of historical sources, Stedall reveals the cultural context behind mathematical development. One standout example is the ancient Babylonian clay tablets, which not only provide insights into mathematical calculations but also offer a glimpse into the curriculum of that time.

Stedall also highlights the importance of appreciating historical works in their original form, cautioning against overly compressed translations that may diminish the significance of unfamiliar ideas.

The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction offers a fascinating insight into the shift from geometric to algebraic representation in the 17th century, challenging the perception that mathematics was always intended to be visually interpreted.

Stedall contrasts the Euclidean axiomatic approach with the more sporadic methods prevalent from the 2nd century BC to the 19th century AD. She also explores the development of calculus, showcasing its functional yet non-axiomatic nature.

The book sheds light on the dichotomy between everyday mathematics and the revered mathematicians of ancient times, who were sought after for their expertise in setting religious dates and were supported by influential figures of their era.

From the establishment of professional societies and academic structures to the collegiality of European mathematicians in the 17th and 18th centuries, Stedall paints a vivid picture of the social cohesion within the field. This tradition continues to this day.

The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction tackles major historical issues in mathematics while remaining accessible to non-specialists. Prepare to be captivated by this compact yet impactful exploration of mathematics.