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The Artist and the Mathematician

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Nicolas Bourbaki, whose mathematical publications began to appear in the late 1930s and continued to be published through most of the twentieth century, was a direct product as well as a major force behind an important revolution that took place in the early decades of the twentieth century that completely changed Western culture. Pure mathematics, the area of Bourbaki's work, seems on the surface to be an abstract field of human study with no direct connection with the real world. In reality, however, it is closely intertwined with the general culture that surrounds it. Major developments in mathematics have often followed important trends in popular culture; developments in mathematics have acted as harbingers of change in the surrounding human culture. The seeds of change, the beginnings of the revolution that swept the Western world in the early decades of the twentieth century — both in mathematics and in other areas — were sown late in the previous century. This is the story both of Bourbaki and the world that created him in that time. It is the story of an elaborate intellectual joke — because Bourbaki, one of the foremost mathematicians of his day — never existed.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 14, 2006 – Lay readers interested in mathematical history will learn a lot they didn't know from Aczel's latest book, which focuses on a group of French mathematicians who in the 1930s decided to publish their collective work under an imaginary name. But readers may also get the feeling that this able math and science popularizer is running out of suitable topics. It's not that the contributions of the Bourbaki school weren't important their rigorous approach to proofs and emphasis on set theory provided the basis for what became known as the New Math it's just that this curious story isn't as inherently dramatic as, say, that of Andrew Wiles's solving Fermat's Last Theorem. Aczel surveys with his usual panache the careers of some major members of the group, like the eccentric Alexandre Grothendieck, who in 1991 became a hermit in the Pyrenees, but Aczel is less convincing when he draws simplistic parallels between advances in mathematics and modern art. While always readable, this diffuse narrative (including chapters on Bourbaki's influence on anthropology and linguistics) strains to pull its disparate parts into a satisfactory whole.
The Artist and the Mathematician
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Mathematics
  • Published: Apr 29, 2009
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Print Length: 256 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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