Who are the mathematicians who, from ancient times to the present day, have created the science that now permeates our daily life? What are the stories behind the names associated with rules and theorems that we remember from school? Pythagoras and Archimedes, Galileo and Descartes, Leibniz and Newton, the princeps mathematicorum and the femme savante who hides behind a male name, a twenty-year-old revolutionary who dies in a mysterious duel, the creators of new geometric worlds, the deputies and senators of the Risorgimento Italy, the ‘princess of science’ with the name inherited from a medieval king, a genius inspired by an Indian goddess, the greatest logician after Aristotle, the son of the British Empire who deciphered the messages of the Nazis. These are some of the 48 profiles collected in “PROFILE MATHEMATICS. The women and men who made the history of mathematical thought ”by Umberto Bottazzini, on newsstands with Il Sole 24 Ore for a month from Thursday 18 November and in bookstores from 25 November.
The volume tells the story of 48 men and women, perhaps not well known to the general public, who have played a decisive role in the history of Western culture and society and who conceal curious stories, intriguing personalities and unexpected nuances. However, as the author explains in the introduction, the book is not only aimed at “specialists, professional mathematicians who will also be able to find elements of interest and perhaps satisfy some curiosity about the life of mathematicians whose theorems they know. When I wrote these pages I had a different audience in mind, the public of young and old curious to know what kind of people are the men (and the few women) who over the centuries have created the mathematics that now dominates our existence. , even if it does so in such a discreet way that perhaps we do not even realize how pervasive it is in the daily routine of our life. The ignorance of mathematics – still widespread, and sometimes boasted by those who believe that it must be a characteristic of people of culture – is accompanied by the idea that mathematicians are bizarre and extravagant beings like the inhabitants of Laputa, the imaginary flying island visited by Gulliver in his Travels, where only men of science live, dedicated to the most abstruse ruminations and the most arduous and difficult studies […] The mathematicians whose profile I have outlined in the following pages have shown, on the contrary, to possess extraordinary abilities of invention, imagination and imagination ”.