A New Year’s Present from a Mathematician

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Author(s): Snezana Lawrence

Longlisted for the BSHS Hughes Prize 2021

A New Year’s Present from a Mathematician is an exciting book dedicated to two questions: What is it that mathematicians do? And who gets to be called a ‘mathematician’ and why?

This book seeks to answer these questions through a series of stories ranging from the beginning of modern mathematics through to the 20th century, but not in a usual, chronological manner. The author weaves her story around major questions concerning nature of mathematics, and links mathematicians by the substance of their ideas and the historical and personal context in which they were developed.

Ideal as a gift for anyone with an interest in mathematics, this book gives a powerful insight into mathematical concepts in an easy-to-read-and-digest manner, without trivializing their nature. The attention given to engaging examples, framed within a poetic narrative structure, means that this book can be enjoyed by almost anyone, regardless of their level of mathematical education.


"The book is notchronological in an ordinary sense. The author has lifted us in the fourth dimension and connected different mathematicians through months January to December, linked by histrical facts, bitrths, or deaths. [. . .] I really enjoyed the author's rich and poetic style of writing. [. . .] This book is a wonderful present which keeps on giving, after you read it, once, twice, ...."
Mathematics Today

"In A New Year’s Present from a Mathematician, Snezana Lawrence takes the reader on an odyssey across the history mathematical sciences. The twelve chapters form a monthly devotional with the author making surprising connectios across time, place and people".
Mark McCartney, President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics

"Snezana Lawrence has written a stimulating and readable account about some fascinating mathematics and mathematicians. Her use of twelve scenes from mathematical history, associated to the months of the year, is an inventive and intriguing approach to the beauty and uses of mathematics. This book would be an excellent present for any inquisitive person, young or old."
Raymond Flood, Former President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics and co-editor of Mathematics at the Meridian: The History of Mathematics at Greenwich

"A New Year’s Present From a Mathematician by Snezana Lawrence is intended to be a mathematical journey through the twelve months of the year. For each month Lawrence chooses an event of significance (birth or the founding of a society, e.g.) and uses that event to frame the mathematical explorations of the chapter. Illustrations are liberally included throughout the text. At the end of the book, she expressed the hope that the images and tales found in the book will inspire the reader to both learn and do mathematics.

Each chapter tends to be wide-ranging, with brief introductions to topics including the theorems of Thales, the catenary, the Platonic solids, Bourbaki, and Flatland. . . . The book includes a good index and an extensive bibliography. . . . A New Year’s Present From a Mathematician is certainly written for a most general audience. It provides an introduction to a great variety of mathematically interesting and important concepts as if the author and reader are on a journey through the year. It can be a fine read especially for the uninitiated, while even the professional may find nuggets of interest scattered throughout."
Michael Caulfield, Mathematical Association of America

"Snezana Lawrence guides a tour of European mathematical history that broadens conventional ideas of who mathematicians are and what we do. Framed as journey across the desert out from Alexandria, the book recounts a vignette from European mathematical history anchored to each month of the year, as drops of creativity and wisdom to sustain the trek.

This book also showcases the diversity of mechanisms through which mathematics is transmitted and expanded. The projects undertaken by Lawrence's subjects are inspired by surviving ancient texts, popular treatments, and personal correspondence, and they yielded instructional texts, organizational schema, reference works, and popular fiction still in circulation today. The book drove home for me that the history of mathematics is ultimately a history of dialogue, and one that any person has the potential to contribute to—and thereby to be a mathematician."
— New Books Network

EAN: 9781000734874