Friday 17 January 2020

Fibonacci's Rabbits: And 49 Other Breakthroughs that Revolutionised Mathematics - Adam Hart-Davis

The word mathematics comes from the Greek word mathema, meaning knowledge or learning. And indeed mathematics is at the heart of almost all processes and patterns that occur in the modern world, yet many still find the discipline hard to fathom. Fibonacci's Rabbits solves this problem in bite-sized hops, describing the 50 most critical discoveries and revolutionary moments in the history of mathematics from Ancient Greece to the present day.

What did I think?

I have previously read and enjoyed Pavlov's Dog by Adam Hart-Davis, but as a self-confessed numbers geek, Fibonacci's Rabbits is right up my street.  Usually with books about complex subjects, in this instance mathematics, I would take my time reading it over several weeks but I ended up reading Fibonacci's Rabbits cover to cover in the space of a week.

Adam Hart-Davis has a real knack of explaining complex subjects in bite-sized chunks that make it easy for the lay person to understand.  With interesting snippets throughout and Monty Pythonesque illustrations, he easily captured and held my attention from start to finish.  I even exclaimed a few times when I had my own Eureka moments; discovering things I didn't know and will now never forget.

As much as I learned things, it also got me thinking and questioning.  For example, there's a section about why there are 60 seconds in a minute and how this is linked to your hands.  I wondered if this is why pointers of a clock are called hands.  It probably isn't, but I like the idea of this link back to its origin and thinking of it this way means I will never forget this particular fascinating fact.

The book is written chronologically over 7 chapters which shows how mathematics has developed over the years from scratches on bones to complex computer code.  Each chapter is broken down into between 6 and 9 individual discoveries of around 3 pages long; just enough to scratch the surface of a discovery and explain its origin without getting too bogged down in technicalities.

Written in a way that makes mathematics easy to understand for non-mathematicians, Fibonacci's Rabbits is an engrossing and fascinating book.  I really wish Adam Hart-Davis had been my maths teacher! 

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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