Jonathan Rée

To Infinities & Beyond

Mathematics without Apologies: Portrait of a Problematic Vocation

By

Princeton University Press 438pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

Near the beginning of this relaxed and illuminating set of reflections on the life of a professional mathematician, Michael Harris recalls an early encounter with an academic adviser at Princeton. The deep but distant voice of the professor cut through swathes of information about courses and textbooks and confronted Harris with an awkward home truth that ‘You want to be the world’s greatest mathematician.’ Harris was sixteen at the time and was astonished by the professor’s X-ray insight into the secrets of his soul. As he grew older, however, he realised that his hectic ambition was not so much a private adolescent fantasy as an essential element of mathematics as a field of modern scientific research. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Englishmen Abroad in the Reign of Henry VIII'. Free lecture by Dr Susan Brigden, Thurs 18 Oct, 6.30pm Europe Hou… ,
    • It 'contains twists and near misses and bit-part players, everything you might expect from a true-crime story'. Ian… ,
    • Oh normally a week or two before the ceremony itself - so mid-November. ,
    • Ian Sansom reviews The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by… ,
    • 'It is hard to think of an economist who could craft such an elegantly readable account of postwar failure as this.… ,
    • Frederick Forsyth reviews The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by ,
    • . reviews What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain by James Hamilton-Paterson ,