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A Library for a Foundation in Mathematics?

  1. Nov 26, 2011 #1
    Hello PF.
    I have recently become fascinated with the lives and works of several mathematicians and physicists as of late and was recently reading about Mary Somerville at http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/somer.htm. Here it is said that William Wallace advised Mary to buy some specific books to develop a "small library of works to provide her with a sound background in mathematics." I was wondering if any of you kind folks might happen to know what such books this might include, as I am seeking to start improving my mathematical foundations as, I admit, it's only recently that I've begun to seriously consider working in academia. Like many young people, I was perhaps socially conditioned to dislike math, though I've always been quite good at math in school.
    However, after reading Lockhart's Lament, I find myself thirsty for this much romanticized world of intellectual creativity and expression.

    Hopefully my first post has been colorful enough for you (laugh). I'd appreciate any recommendations for older more noteworthy works as well as more modern literature.
    Thanks in advanced.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 26, 2011 #2


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    You don't really say the level of your current knowledge so the following may be way off target. I also assume that you aren't really wanting to study the original texts that Somerville studied as they are mostly in French and at this point dated.

    The two books that I'm suggesting are not traditional textbooks but rather introductions to serious mathematics for a non-mathematical reader:

    1) Fearless Symmetry: Exposing the Hidden Patterns of Numbers

    2) Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics
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