The Secret Lives of Numbers

The Secret Lives of Numbers


Mathematics is undergoing a revolution. Its history is being rewritten.

Mathematics shapes almost everything we do. From building rockets to the handheld technology that governs our day-to-day lives, we are all in debt to the mathematical geniuses of the past. But the history of mathematics is warped; it looks like a sixteenth-century map that enlarges Europe at the expense of Africa, Asia and the Americas.

The Secret Lives of Numbers introduces readers to a new group of mathematical boundary-smashers, those who have been erased by history because of their race, gender or nationality. Kitagawa and Revell bring to vivid life the stories and struggles of mathematicians from every continent: from the brilliant Arabic scholars of the ninth century 'House of Wisdom'; to the pioneering African-American mathematicians of the twentieth century; the first female mathematics professor (from Russia); and the 'lady computers' around the world who revolutionised our knowledge of the night sky.

This groundbreaking, deeply researched book offers a powerful corrective to our shared history. Equally inspiring and iconoclastic, it shows the non-linear, worldwide reality of how mathematics progressed over the past 3,000 years -- and finally puts these trailblazing men and women back on the map.

About the authors

Tomoko L. Kitagawa

Dr Tomoko L. Kitagawa is a historian specialising in the mathematical cultures of Europe, East Asia, and South Africa at Oxford University. After a stint as a diplomat at the United Nations in New York, she received her PhD in history from Princeton University. She has taught at Harvard University and held research positions at UC Berkeley, University of Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute. Her first book, Japanese History Abroad (2012), was a national bestseller in Japan. She was selected as one of the '100 most influential people in Japan' by Nikkei Business Publishing and one of the '100 most amazing Japanese women' by Japan's leading publisher, Shincho. She is currently Director of Space Education Office at JAXA (Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency), and works as an occasional broadcaster, with appearances on Netflix, CNN, the History Channel, and the BBC.
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Timothy Revell

Dr Timothy Revell is a science journalist and lapsed mathematician. He currently works as Culture and Comment Editor at New Scientist. As a reporter and editor, he specialises in technology and mathematics, covering everything from artificial intelligence to the Abel prize. He also currently runs New Scientist's diversity internship scheme. He often appears on the BBC radio show 'The Naked Scientists', including in a slot answering listener's questions about mathematics.
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