Why Beauty is Truth

book cover

A History of Symmetry

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2007 SCIENCE BOOK PRIZE


Hidden in the heart of the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, and modern cosmology lies one concept: symmetry.
        Symmetry has been a key idea for artists, architects and musicians for centuries, but within mathematics it remained, until very recently, an arcane pursuit. In the twentieth century, however, symmetry emerged as central to the most fundamental ideas in cosmology. Why Beauty is Truth tells its history, from ancient Babylon to twenty-first century physics.

        We meet Girolamo Cardano, the Renaissance rogue, scholar, and gambler who stole the modern method of solving cubic equations and published it in the first important book on algebra. We meet Évariste Galois, a young revolutionary who singlehandedly refashioned the whole of mathematics by founding the field of group theory - only to die in a duel over a woman before publishing any of his work.
Perhaps the most curious is William Rowan Hamilton, who carved his most significant discovery into a stone bridge between bouts of alcoholic delirium.

"A masterful tour de force that chronicles the three thousand year quest to understand - with the precision possible only through mathematics - the world we live in. With the clarity fand wit for which he is well known, Stewart not only explains the key discoveries, but also tells the fascinating stories of the people who made them." 
                KEITH DEVLIN, author of THE MATH GENE and THE MILLENNIUM PROBLEMS


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