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The Maths That Made Us

how numbers created civilisation

Michael Brooks author


Publisher:Scribe Publications

Published:8th Sep '22


Available for immediate dispatch.

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The Maths That Made Us cover

Quadratic equations, Pythagoras’ theorem, imaginary numbers, and pi — you may remember studying these at school, but did anyone ever explain why? Never fear — bestselling science writer, and your new favourite maths teacher, Michael Brooks, is here to help.

In The Maths That Made Us, Brooks reminds us of the wonders of numbers: how they enabled explorers to travel far across the seas and astronomers to map the heavens; how they won wars and halted the HIV epidemic; how they are responsible for the design of your home and almost everything in it, down to the smartphone in your pocket. His clear explanations of the maths that built our world, along with stories about where it came from and how it shaped human history, will engage and delight. From ancient Egyptian priests to the Apollo astronauts, and Babylonian tax collectors to juggling robots, join Brooks and his extraordinarily eccentric cast of characters in discovering how maths made us who we are today.

‘At school, many of us wondered about the point of geometry, calculus, and algebra. Brooks shows how the childhood question “What’s the point of this?” can be reframed: esoteric concepts such as imaginary numbers, cryptography, and the semi-mystical digits of pi are revealed to be the essential building blocks of the 21st century.’

-- Liz Else and Simon Ings * New Scientist *

‘An alternative textbook that suggests a new way of thinking about maths, and a more congenial way of teaching it — as not simply an abstract science but as a cultural achievement, an indelible and indispensable part of human history.’

-- Lola Seaton * New Statesman *

‘How brilliant of Michael Brooks to be able to reignite my almost-forgotten childhood love of mathematics. Written with beauty, style, and care for the history as well as for the science. A tour de force.’

-- Angela Saini, author of Superior: the return of race science

‘Michael Brooks has written the formula that reduces to near zero any sense that maths could be a dull subject to study. [The Maths That Made Us] brings to life in accessible, lively terms how maths helps us navigate pandemics, space travel, and encrypted apps — all while celebrating the complicated and fascinating characters, from Euclid to Florence Nightingale, who have pushed our knowledge forward. Why isn’t school maths taught like this?’

-- David Rowan, founding editor-in-chief of WIRED UK and author of Non-Bullshit Innovation

‘In this thrilling, colourful, and deeply researched book, Michael Brooks tells the epic story of how mathematics has driven human progress, spanning millennia to trace the numerical innovations — from geometry and algebra to the mind-bending landscapes of imaginary numbers and extra dimensions — that have woven our history and shape our lives today. Along the way, he explores the passions and intrigues of the people behind the numbers, transforming mathematics from dry equations into a gripping drama. This is maths as you’ve never experienced it: inspiring, fun, and utterly human.’

-- Jo Marchant, author of The Human Cosmos

‘Michael Brooks has a rare gift for making science come to life, and in this book he is at his best, fusing mathematics with storytelling as he takes us on an exhilarating sweep through human history. [The Maths That Made Us] shows just how deeply numbers have propelled the advance of civilisation. And it does so with enormous narrative brio and good cheer. This is a serious — but seriously readable — history which I enjoyed from the first page to the last.’

-- Dan Jones, New York Times bestselling historian

‘A friendly, readable account of the huge influence that mathematics has had on human civilisation. If you’ve ever wondered what the maths you did at school was for, and what it has done for us, you’ll find the answer here. Michael Brooks’s enthusiasm for the beauty and utility of the subject shines from every page.’

-- Ian Stewart, author of What’s the Use?

‘From Fermat’s last theorem to quantum computers, pi to probability, slides rules to golden ratios, [The Maths That Made Us] is no mere bluffer’s guide, but a rich introduction to the elegance and importance of mathematics. Michael Brooks shows what a global and multicultural task it has been, ever since prehistory, to figure out how we can benefit from quantification and calculation. He shows that maths is not just, as Eugene Wigner said, unreasonably effective for understanding the world, but also unfathomably wonderful in its own right.’

-- Philip Ball, science writer and author of Beyond Weird

‘Suddenly it all makes sense. This brilliant book shows maths as something concrete, real, and crucial to our lives, rather than some dry, abstract code designed to make school kids’ lives miserable.’

-- Charlie Higson, actor, comedian, and author of the Enemy series

‘Michael Brooks has written both a lively history of civilisation, and a delightful introduction to the power of mathematics. Either would be an achievement, but to do both simultaneously is a wonder.’

-- Tim Harford, author of How To Make the World Add Up

‘If you love maths, you’ll enjoy this book. But if you’re a little scared of maths (as I am), you’ll adore [The Maths That Made Us]. Michael Brooks knows how to tell the hidden stories behind numbers, formulas, and logarithms.’

-- Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature

‘Mathematics is quite unique in that even much earlier results do not change with the passing of time. This book is not only a passionate love letter to mathematics, it offers an important lesson in the appreciation of mathematics, and of its crucial role in humanity’s history.’

-- Mario Livio, astrophysicist, and author of Galileo and The Science Deniers

‘A more or less chronological history and compelling case that advances in mathematics provided the foundation for the advance of civilisation … An unabashed lover of mathematics, Brooks refuses to take the traditional pop writer’s pledge to eschew equations. Most readers will follow his description of ancient navigation across the Mediterranean and the birth of linear perspective in Renaissance Italy, but when he turns his attention to calculus, logarithms, statistics, and cryptography, there is no shortage of complex equation … Not a mathematics-is-fun romp but a serious, persuasive effort to describe how its discoveries paralleled human progress.’

* Kirkus Reviews *

‘An enviably good history of how ideas in mathematics have shaped (and been shaped by) the progress of civilisation.’

-- Tim Harford, author of How To Make the World Add Up

‘What is the driving force behind the development of human civilisation? In this unique and surprising book, Michael Brooks makes the case that it is the growth and progress of mathematics — and he does it in a way that will be interesting to the mathematical and math-phobic alike! As entertaining as it is informative, [The Maths That Made Us] takes us on a journey through the ages, demonstrating how mathematics played a crucial role in the evolution of how we live. Not since Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel has there been such an insightful and compelling analysis of how we got here.’

-- Leonard Mlodinow, New York Times bestselling author of The Drunkard’s Walk

‘Moving from ancient Egyptian priests to a hobbyist who solved a mapmaking puzzle that confounded NASA and the US Geological Survey, science writer Brooks aims to persuade readers that mathematics was one of the great innovations that made civilisation happen.’

-- Barbara Hoffert * Library Journal *

‘He begins by diligently explaining the basics of algebra, arithmetic, calculus, and geometry, and introducing key figures in math’s history … Brooks uses the work of these thinkers to break down the math behind facets of everyday life: he describes the statistics that underlie life expectancies; the equations that allow scientists to understand the cosmos; and the imaginary numbers that give guitar amplifiers their power … It’s a show-stopping paean to the wonder of numbers.’

* Publishers Weekly, starred review *


-- Tom Gatti * New Statesm

ISBN: 9781913348984

Dimensions: 198mm x 129mm x 20mm

Weight: unknown

336 pages