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. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,