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Title  Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra 
Author(s)  John Derbyshire 
Description  [HARDCOVER  INNER FRONT FLAP] Grab your graphing calculators, slip out the slide rules, and buckle up. John Derbyshire is introducing us to algebra through the ages. "Here is the story of algebra." With this deceptively simple introduction, we begin our journey. Flanked by formulae, shadowed by roots and radicals, but escorted by an expert who navigates unerringly on our behalf, we are guaranteed safe passage through even the most treacherous mathematical terrain. Our first encounter with algebraic arithmetic takes us back thirtyeight centuries to the time of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, Sodom and Gomorrah. Moving deftly from Abel's proof to the higher levels of abstraction developed milennia later by Galois, we are eventually introduced to what algebraists have been focusing on during the last century. As we travel the ages, it becomes apparent that the invention of algebra was more than the start of a specific discipline of mathematics — it was also the birth of a new way of thinking that clarified both basic numeric concepts as well as our perception of the world around us. Algebraists broke new ground when they discarded the simple search for solutions to equations and concentrated instead on abstract groups, a dramatic shift in thinking that revolutionized mathematics. Written for those among us who are unencumbered by a fear of formulae, Unknown Quantity delivers on its promise to present a history of algebra. Astonishing in its bold presentation of the math and graced with narrative authority, our journey through the world of algebra is at once intellectually satisfying and pleasantly challenging. [PAPERBACK] For armchair mathematicians and curious algebra buffs, Unknown Quantity is the story behind one of the oldest disciplines in mathematics. John Derbyshire brings the evolution of mathematical thinking to dramatic life beginning in the time of Abraham and Isaac and moving from Abel's proof to the higher levels of abstraction developed by Galois and through modernday advances. Derbyshire explains how a simple turn of thought from "this plus this equals this" to "this plus what equals this?" gave birth to a whole new way of perceiving the world. Algebraists broke new ground when they discarded the simple search for solutions to equations concentrated instead on abstract groups, a dramatic shift in thinking that revolutionized mathematics. With a historian's narrative authority and a beloved teacher's clarity and passion, Derbyshire leads readers on an intellectually satisfying and pleasantly challenging journey through the development of abstract mathematical thought. 
Dedication  "For Rosie" 
ISBN  030909657X 
Book Dimensions (Hardcover)  Width: 6.94″ (6 15/16″) 
Height: 9.31″ (9 5/16″)  
Depth: 1.75″ (5¾8″)  
Book Dimensions (Paperback)  Width: 5.31″ (6 5/16) 
Height: 8″  
Depth: 0.75″ (¾8″)  
Page Count  386 (Hardcover), 384 (Paperback) 
Contents  Introduction, Math Primer: Numbers and Polynomials, [Part 1: The Unknown Quantity] 1 Four Thousand Years Ago, 2 The Father of Algebra, 3 Completion and Reduction, Math Primer: Cubic and Quartic Equations, 4 Commerce and Competition, 5 Relief for the Imagination, [Part 2: Universal Arithmetic] 6 The Lion's Claw, Math Primer: Roots of Unity, 7 The Assault on the Quintic, Math Primer: Vector Spaces and Algebra, 8 The Leap into the Fourth Dimension, 9 An Oblong Arrangement of Terms, 10 Victoria's Brumous Isles, [Part 3: Levels of Abstraction] Math Primer: Field Theory, 11 Pistols at Dawn, 12 Lady of the Rings, Math Primer: Algebraic Geometry, 13 Geometry Makes a Comeback, 14 Algebraic This, Algebraic That, 15 From Universal Arithmetic to Universal Algebra, Endnotes, Picture Credits, Index 
Cover Design  Van Nguyen (Hardcover) // Lucia Kim (Paperback) 
Author Photograph  Lynette Rose Derbyshire 
Published  May 15, 2006 
Publisher  Penguin Books (www.penguin.com) 
Copyright  © John Derbyshire 2006 
Printed in  United States of America 
Book Format  Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle 
Quoted Reviews 
"Derbyshire offers a very real and very entertaining survey of the development of algebra... [Unknown Quantity] will appeal to readers who relish rigorous mathematical discursions interspersed with informal vignettes..." — Publishers Weekly "Both compelling and easy to follow." — Library Journal "The story of algebra is the story of civilization itself. . . . Unknown Quantity buzzes with rivalries, frustrations, and breakthroughs . . . A firstrate account that even algebraphobes will struggle to fault." — New Scientist "An engaging account . . . Derbyshire has done a good job of protraying algebra and its journey toward abstraction from its roots in early civilization." — Mathematical Association of America "Talk about a Renaissance man." — National Review 
Best Seller's List   
Other  John Derbyshire is a mathematician and linguist by education, a systems analyst by profession, and the celebrated author of Prime Obsession, his noholdsbarred mathematical biography of Bernhard Riemann, and the highly acclaimed 1996 novel Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream. His work appears frequently in National Review and The New Criterion. He currently lives in Huntington, New York, with his wife and two children. He can also make x^{3} + Px^{2} + Qx + R = (x + P/3)^{3} + (Q  P^{2}/3)(x + P/3) + (R  QP/3 + 2P^{3}/27) seem easy. 
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