Stewart, Ian. Taming the Infinite: The Story of Mathematics from the First Numbers to Chaos Theory. Quercus, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Dec. 2011. 384p. illus. index. ISBN 9781847247681. pap. $14.95. MATH
Have you ever thought of math as terrific fun? Stewart (mathematics, Univ. of Warwick, UK; Why Beauty Is Truth: The History of Symmetry) makes it that and more. His engaging writing style draws readers into the story of mathematics, giving it an arc and its players charismatic personalities, even when those players are notation systems. In each chapter, Stewart chronologically examines a particular area of mathematics. He gives accessible, real-world examples that are easy to visualize and often illustrate the impact of complicated mathematical concepts on our daily lives. From tally marks and numerals, to Euclid and Pythagoras, to imaginary numbers and chaos theory, to Gödel and Faraday, Stewart offers an insightful and clear history of mathematical developments. The diagrams and illustrations are comprehensible for lay readers yet not condescendingly simple. Throughout, Stewart examines the discoveries of great mathematicians and offers absorbing anecdotes about their lives in special callouts throughout the book. VERDICT Clear and readable, this is an essential title for math, science, and technology buffs and will be intriguing for all. It might even be of interest to teens! Highly recommended.‚ Candice Kail, Columbia Univ. Libs., New York
Mount, Ian. The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec. Norton. Jan. 2012. c.288p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393080193. $26.95. BEVERAGES
Adding to the growing body of work on wine history, wine journalist Mount traces the history of Argentinian wine from its beginning in the 1700s to the present day. To accomplish this monumental task in a digestible narrative, he focuses on one figure and one region but explains in the epilog that many other people and areas were also important. The result is an artfully written story of how a poorly developed wine culture grew into one of the best wine regions in the world. Mount brings to light a lesser-known wine region and explains how cultural contact beginning with Spanish explorers contributed to its current wine- producing status. The work is obviously well researched; the author includes notes and a bibliography, but citations are not included throughout the chapters. VERDICT This engaging, important, and accessible book fills a gap in the literature of wine culture and history.‚ Lisa Ennis, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Tuscaloosa
Great Discoveries in Medicine. Thames & Hudson, dist. by Norton. 2011. 304p. ed. by William Bynum & Helen Bynum. illus. index. ISBN 9780500251805. $45. MED
Coeditors of the Dictionary of Medical Biography, husband-and-wife team William (history of medicine, emeritus, Univ. Coll. London) and Helen Bynum (history of medicine, former lecturer, Univ. of Liverpool), along with an international team of 49 experts, guide readers through the history and heroes of modern medicine. This beautifully designed, quarto-sized volume features 382 illustrations from classical art to medieval engravings to early photographs to the latest examples of medical imaging and electronic microscopes. Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Islamic, and Greek medical traditions are covered both in the text and in the images, which enriches the dominant narrative of Western medical progress. Seven topical sections include chapters on medical devices, historically important diseases, drugs, surgery, and life-saving innovations such as vaccines, insulin, and dialysis. Complementary medicine is treated respectfully, although nutrition is omitted. Mental illness and psychoanalysis are also well covered. The book portrays medical progress as gained through incremental steps as well as broad strides, often arriving somewhere new unexpectedly, via outsiders who challenged the medical establishment. VERDICT A striking and informative history, this book should be the go-to gift for many medical professionals this holiday season.‚ Kathy Arsenault, St. Petersburg, FL
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