Brian Rotman

X Marks the Spot

Enlightening Symbols: A Short History of Mathematical Notation and its Hidden Powers

By

Princeton University Press 285pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

Enlightening Symbols is mostly a historical study of the mathematical symbols we encounter in school arithmetic and elementary algebra, informed by a larger interest in the formidable utility mathematical symbols possess. What it offers is not a general or theoretical study of mathematical symbols per se (which the title might suggest), but an informative, highly readable and scholarly history of a small but fundamental subset of symbols familiar from the schoolroom in two parts, followed by a third which attempts to bring to light their hidden power.

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

    • 'The lack of evidence ... of any definitive brain pathology in cases of schizophrenia and the absence of any reliab… ,
    • 'Since Dylan’s commercial and ideological heyday, the intrusion of sociology, semiology and post-structuralist thou… ,
    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,