Oxford University Press
July 18, 1985
Few scientists have the ability to convey the complexity and richness of their specialty in terms the general reader can appreciate. Morris Klein is one of that rare breed of scientist, as his earlier books, including Mathematics in Western Culture, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times, and Mathematics: the Loss of Certainty, attest.
His subject here is the knowledge that we’ve gained through the use of mathematics. Since ancient Greek times and increasingly as we approach modern times, Klein observes, mathematics has been our most powerful instrument for the exploration of the physical world. Mathematics has transcended and outclassed perception. We can’t observe phenomena like gravitation, electromagnetic waves, the universe of space time, and the structure of atoms directly through our senses.
In this book, Klein recounts how scientists have turned more and more to mathematics to stretch our knowledge as opposed to relying strictly on the empirical method of observation and experimentation. He deals with the Greeks, early modern scientists such as Galileo and Newton, and the twentieth century theories of relativity and quanta. Why mathematics works, how we know what we know, and specific aspects of the power of mathematics are also treated.
Morris Klein is Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, at New York University. His many books include Why Johnny Can’t Add, Mathematics in the Physical World, Mathematics: A Cultural Approach, and Electromagnetic Theory and Geometrical Optics.