Birth of a Theorem by Cedric Villani

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Birth of a Theorem by Cedric Villani

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Andy Heath
Reviewed by Andy Heath
Summary: Birth of a Theorem is a book rooted in the abstract world of mathematics. A journey into the human drive to understand the world that we inhabit. It is also an insight into creative inspiration, and the price of genius.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 273 Date: March 2015
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099581970

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Birth of a Theorem is a remarkable journey into the world of the abstract mathematics that shape our lives and existence. When you first open the book and flick through the pages, you are confronted with complex formulas that disorientate the mind and defy the understanding of anyone not versed in the language of the mathematician. You realise at this point that you need a guide for your journey and there is none better that Cedric Villani. He is a winner of the Fields Medal, the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize. A genius who has dedicated his life to understanding the most complex aspects of our world. He is also a writer gifted in conveying the elation and despair that his gift can bring.

Mathematicians will love this book for the beauty of his work. The development of his theorem as he moves from step to step. Sometimes taking a wrong turn or the sheer eureka moment as he gains an insight that drives him on towards his goal. The general reader, not versed in the complexity of his thought, will love this book for the biographical detail as he balances his life between the depths of his work and the everyday life that we all have to face. In this respect, Birth of a Theorem is an unusual popular science book. Many books in the genre focus on the technical aspects of their chosen subject. The joy, despair and self-doubt of the individual are often excluded. As a result, they tend to be one-dimensional snapshots that only focus on a particular problem. In his writing Villani gives you all the dimensions of his rollercoaster life. As you read, you become aware that understanding the mathematical formulas is not the driving force behind the book. They are his doodles and notes as he tries to make sense of the problem he is confronting. In many respects, we are not expected to understand the equations. They are the building blocks of the world that Villani lives in. Our eureka moment comes with understanding the drive that inspires the creative process and the tortured journey that it can take you on.

Birth of a Theorem will not be a book for everyone. On the cover, it is described as a mathematical adventure. My own reading was that it is so much more than that. It is a celebration of what makes us human. It is about our need to understand and push the boundaries of that understanding as told by a man who wrestles with it every day. A book that will reward the reader with an insight into what shapes genius by someone who has made that journey.

If you enjoy Birth of a Theorem, you may also enjoy Mathematics of Life by Ian Stewart and From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centuries by Chris Waring.

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Buy Birth of a Theorem by Cedric Villani at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Birth of a Theorem by Cedric Villani at


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