I'm curious to hear from people who know more about Pynchon and can say whether this has been discussed earlier. If you just want to find out about the history of mathematics, Crowe absolutely delivers there too. I was first exposed to vector spaces and the scalar and vector products in my early teens, and have long regarded them as something so obvious that they scarcely required an explanation. I knew about quaternions, and was vaguely aware that they historically antedate modern vector analysis, but it wasn't until I read Pynchon that I started becoming interested in discovering what actually happened.
What was the link between these two frameworks? Where did the other systems of vector analysis come from, in particular the one pioneered by Grassmann? Who the hell was Grassmann, anyway? I now know the answers to all these questions. The thing that surprised me most: the scalar and vector products turn out to be parts of the original quaternion product, which have been cut up and rebranded.
It really is a startling lesson in the art of how science gets done.
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I have trouble understanding how this excellent book can only have fourteen ratings on Goodreads. Don't pay any attention to me; but if the great Pynchon was prepared to spend several years and over a thousand pages writing an extended trailer for it, you'd expect just a little more buzz.
View all 20 comments. Excelent history of the evolution of vector method I learned a great deal on the origin of the current Gibbs-Heaviside vector system used in engineering and mathematics. I do wish that more was said on Clifford, but the level of coverage seems to be appropriate for the level of influence Clifford had.
Sep 20, Arthur Pesah rated it it was amazing Shelves: history-of-science. Wonderful trip into the universe of 19th century mathematicians, written in a very clear prose and coherent narrative! You learn how Hamilton, Grassman, Tait, Gibbs, Heaviside, and many others have defined the terms and concepts that are now fundamental tools in physics and mathematics: vectors, linear functions, curl, divergence, scalar and cross products, etc. You observe the evolution in the philosophy of mathematics that occurred during this century from intuition to abstraction and the lon Wonderful trip into the universe of 19th century mathematicians, written in a very clear prose and coherent narrative!
You observe the evolution in the philosophy of mathematics that occurred during this century from intuition to abstraction and the long process that it takes to accept revolutionary ideas. You witness one of the hottest debates in the history of mathematics quaternions vs vectors and how it has shaped modern physics and mathematics. It's interesting to see how many arguments against the use of vector analysis in the 19th century "what can you prove with vectors that can't be proven with coordinates? Added to basket. Schaum's Outline of Vector Analysis, 2ed. Murray R.
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