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Berlinski's Euclid Is Out Now: A Wonderful Review

Berlinski Euclid.jpg

Congratulations to our colleague and contributor David Berlinski whose new book is out! The King of Infinite Space: Euclid and His Elements gets a wonderful review in the New York Journal of Books by Robert Schaefer, a Research Engineer at MIT Haystack Observatory. Schaefer concludes: "The King of Infinite Space is for anyone who cares about Euclid, geometry, the philosophy of mathematics and, most especially, for those who appreciate fine writing."

Yes indeed. More:

David Berlinski's slim book The King of Infinite Space is not your typical biography.

Concerning Euclid and his book on geometry, the Elements, The King of Infinite Space is surprisingly compelling. Dr. Berlinski goes about his business in an artful manner, at times serious and straightforward, at times stream-of-consciousness or poetic. The spirit of this book is something this reviewer can only hope to capture.

Euclid was born in the fourth century BCE and died sometime in the third. Much of Euclid's life we only know only indirectly through the writings of others--through copies of copies. His Elements comprises 13 books, the first four (of which have been the longest lived) concern geometry, the study of shapes in space--points, straight lines, circles, squares, right angles, triangles, rectangles, magnitudes, proportions, and solids. Modern versions of the Elements are based on a 10th century Greek text; even so, the Elements have been the most successful of all mathematical textbooks and the oldest complete text in the Western mathematical tradition.

Dr. Berlinksi claims that the Elements draws a historical line in the sand that separates the unorganized before from the organized after, and that Euclid also provides a double insight, the first that geometry could be organized into a whole, and second that geometric propositions could be, must be logical.

Read the rest, and buy the book!