The Story of Proof: Logic and the History of Mathematics Spiral-Bound | November 15, 2022

John Stillwell

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How the concept of proof has enabled the creation of mathematical knowledge

The Story of Proof investigates the evolution of the concept of proof—one of the most significant and defining features of mathematical thought—through critical episodes in its history. From the Pythagorean theorem to modern times, and across all major mathematical disciplines, John Stillwell demonstrates that proof is a mathematically vital concept, inspiring innovation and playing a critical role in generating knowledge.

Stillwell begins with Euclid and his influence on the development of geometry and its methods of proof, followed by algebra, which began as a self-contained discipline but later came to rival geometry in its mathematical impact. In particular, the infinite processes of calculus were at first viewed as “infinitesimal algebra,” and calculus became an arena for algebraic, computational proofs rather than axiomatic proofs in the style of Euclid. Stillwell proceeds to the areas of number theory, non-Euclidean geometry, topology, and logic, and peers into the deep chasm between natural number arithmetic and the real numbers. In its depths, Cantor, Gödel, Turing, and others found that the concept of proof is ultimately part of arithmetic. This startling fact imposes fundamental limits on what theorems can be proved and what problems can be solved.

Shedding light on the workings of mathematics at its most fundamental levels, The Story of Proof offers a compelling new perspective on the field’s power and progress.

Publisher: Princeton University Press
Original Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 456 pages
ISBN-10: 0691234361
Item Weight: 2.23 lbs
Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.37 x 9.3 inches
Customer Reviews: 4 out of 5 stars Up to 30 ratings
"This book could well serve as a history of mathematics. … [Stillwell] has done an amazing job of collecting and categorizing many of the most important ideas in this area."---Jim Stein, New Books in Mathematics

John Stillwell is emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of San Francisco. His many books include Elements of Mathematics and Reverse Mathematics (both Princeton).