Maths has always been a hot topic in my household. South-Indian, you see. It is an indispensable part of our life right from the beginning. If Swaraj is the birth-right that Lokmanya Tilak was so fond of, Maths is the birth right of every South-Indian family. If you cannot score centum in Maths means there is some serious mistake in your genetics. Hence, the fact that you need to be a pro in Maths glared so bright that it blinded our vision. If you wanted to move ahead without faltering, you had no choice but to ace the subject. There is a saying ‘we can hate it but cannot ignore it’. I can see you nodding at this and that is what exactly Maths is all about. The subject is everywhere and you cannot ignore. Right from our accounts, daily grocery shopping, maintaining bills and so many other sundry things, it highlights its glorious visage left, right and center.
I can still hear my mother scream,” Does your one cup rice have 3 cups of water?”, when I was shutting the lid of my pressure cooker. I shuddered with fear. “Oh heavens, Maths cannot stop interfering in my life. It has entered in my kitchen too”, I went on sotto voce.
When did Mathematics take birth? What was the genesis of it? How did it spread across so many civilizations and what was the contribution of each civilization to the rise in the knowledge of this subject? How many of us have tried to find out the answers? Curiosity brought me to Archana Sarat’s “The History of Mathematics” which covers variety of aspects that one wants to know about its origin.
‘The History of Mathematics’ comprises of 26 tales that marks the origin of parts of Mathematics. The author has skillfully crafted the tale surrounding the history and facts through proper research. The book undoubtedly shows that the subject is very close to author’s heart.
Sharing some snippet of the stories I liked from the book:
I liked the story of ‘Tally Marks’ very much. I have often wondered why this horizontal line is drawn across the 4 vertical lines. Tally marks help save time and east out the process of counting. The story narrows the minutest detail of its origin and how the fifth line cuts through making it look like a barred gate. That’s a brilliant way to put it and teach the children without getting into the point of confusion.
I felt the story ‘Much ado about nothing’ found it quite interesting. It gives an idea about how civilizations were open minded about sharing and accepting the new knowledge that they came across. There was a great amount of sharing new ideas between civilizations like Indus, Mesopotamia, China and India in terms of Mathematics to broaden their horizons and make the life easier than it was.
The story that I felt little bit exaggerated is Akkad feels cold. As compared to the other stories which flow very naturally, this one offers more fictional air. Nevertheless, it tickles our funny bones by the way the tale is told.
The excerpt I found amusing:
“They don’t know that I have adjusted the strings of my lyre to follow mathematical proportions. It will be too hard for them to accept my explanation that music and mathematics go together. I believe that only mathematics and music can purify one’s soul.”
Music and Mathematics go together. Every harmony that string produces is a work of mathematics and the above lines expressed by one of the finest mathematicians vouch for that.
‘The History of Mathematics’ will make you come to it again and again and take in the sweet essence of it. This book is not only for adults but it can also be read and understood by children. It can make an excellent book-club selection as it has the ability to draw deep discussions, bring on more ideas, assimilate them and even regale the tales within. It will also serve as a wonderful collection for teachers to keep in their class library.
You do not need to be a Mathematical genius or a subject matter expert to read this book, as Archana says “you are already a Mathematician”.
Having read author’s previous book ‘Birds of Prey’, which was completely a different genre based on psychological thriller, I picked up this book the minute I set my eyes on it. I love Archana’s way of storytelling as she completely brings life-like images of a particular scene to the reader’s eyes. The story revolves around many civilizations which contributed significantly in expanding the breadth of Mathematics. Our very own Indian civilization has been a pioneer in many mathematical concepts and helped Arabs and the western countries to adapt those concepts. My chest swells with pride having known that so many Mathematicians and Astronomers originated from India but at the same time I feel bad knowing some of them leaned on to the religious beliefs and fabricated the concepts keeping in mind the interests of society.
If you love Mathematics and want to know how its concepts came into existence, with brilliant stories giving a background of each concept, rush to a nearest store and pick Archana Sarat’s ‘The History of Mathematics’. Great content with beautiful expression of thoughts will surely delight you.