Search Loci: Convergence:
[Statistics are] the only tools by which an opening can be cut through the formidable thicket of difficulties that bars the path of those who pursue the Science of Man.
Pearson, The Life and Labours of Francis Galton, 1914.
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Trigonometric Delights, by Eli Maor, Princeton University Press,
Professor Maor has written several books with a slant towards the history of mathematics. Trigonometric Delights is one of these. Throughout this book, Maor weaves a fascinating story that combines history, anecdotes, applications, and theory (explained at a non-threatening level). Sprinkled among the book’s fifteen short chapters are six informative mini-biographies. Every chapter and each mini-biography ends with a list of notes and sources. The notes are just as interesting to read as the text itself!
In the first three chapters, Professor Maor, introduces the reader to the Ahmes Papyrus and the ancient Egyptian measurement of the seked , which is equivalent to what we now call the cotangent of the angle between the base of a pyramid and its face. From ancient
The reader should not stop there, however. The rest of the book provides ample motivation for the past and ongoing importance of trigonometry. In particular, the fifth and thirteenth chapters deal with the historical squabbles over the shape of the earth and the development of useful maps for navigational purposes. In these chapters, Maor uses historical context to make an indisputable argument for the indispensability of trigonometry and he accomplishes this in an extremely reader-friendly manner.
Trigonometric Delights is appropriate for supplemental reading in a History of Mathematics class, especially for a group project on the history of trigonometry. At the secondary level, it provides teachers with an interesting source of stories to use as they teach trigonometry to their students.
Dorothee Jane Blum, Associate Professor of Mathematics,