Infinitesimal: Book summary and reviews of Infinitesimal by Amir Alexander

Infinitesimal

How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World

by Amir Alexander

Infinitesimal by Amir Alexander X
Infinitesimal by Amir Alexander

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Book Summary

On August 10, 1632, five leaders of the Society of Jesus convened in a somber Roman palazzo to pass judgment on a simple idea: that a continuous line is composed of distinct and limitlessly tiny parts. The doctrine would become the foundation of calculus, but on that fateful day the judges ruled that it was forbidden. With the stroke of a pen they set off a war for the soul of the modern world.

Amir Alexander's Infinitesimal is the story of the struggle that pitted Europe's entrenched powers against voices for tolerance and change. It takes us from the bloody religious strife of the sixteenth century to the battlefields of the English civil war and the fierce confrontations between leading thinkers like Galileo and Hobbes. We see how a small mathematical disagreement became a contest over the nature of the heavens and the earth: Was the world entirely known and ruled by a divinely sanctioned rationality and hierarchy? Or was it a vast and mysterious place, ripe for exploration? The legitimacy of popes and kings, as well as our modern beliefs in human liberty and progressive science, hung in the balance; the answer hinged on the infinitesimal.

Pulsing with drama and excitement, Infinitesimal will forever change the way you look at a simple line—and celebrates the spirit of discovery, innovation, and intellectual achievement.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A fast-paced history of the singular idea that shaped a multitude of modern achievements." - Kirkus

"This in-depth history offers a unique view into the mathematical idea that became the foundation of our open, modern world." - Publishers Weekly

"A page-turner full of fascinating stories about remarkable individuals and ideas, Infinitesimal will help you understand the world at a deeper level." - Edward Frenkel, Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Love and Math

"In this fascinating book, Amir Alexander vividly re-creates a wonderfully strange chapter of scientific history, when fine-grained arguments about the foundations of mathematical analysis were literally matters of life and death, and fanatical Jesuits and English philosophers battled over the nature of geometry, with the fate of their societies hanging in the balance. You will never look at calculus the same way again." - Jordan Ellenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and author of How Not to Be Wrong

"With considerable wit and unusual energy, Amir Alexander charts the great debate about whether mathematics could be reduced to a rigorous pattern of logical and orderly deductions or whether, instead, it could be an open-ended and exciting endeavor to explore the world's mysteries." - Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science, University of Cambridge

"The history of mathematics has rarely been so readable." - Michael Harris, Professor of Mathematics, Columbia University and Université Paris Diderot

"We thought we knew the whole story: Copernicus, Galileo, the sun in the center, the Church rushing to condemn. Now this remarkable book puts the deeply subversive doctrine of atomism and its accompanying mathematics at the heart of modern science." - Margaret C. Jacob, Distinguished Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles

The information about Infinitesimal shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Amir Alexander

Amir Alexander teaches history at UCLA. He is the author of Geometrical Landscapes and Duel at Dawn. His work has been featured in Nature, The Guardian, and other publications. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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