You are here

Classics of Mathematics

Ronald S. Calinger, editor
Prentice Hall
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
BLL Rating: 

The Basic Library List Committee recommends this book for acquisition by undergraduate mathematics libraries.

[Reviewed by
Fernando Q. Gouvêa
, on

Ron Calinger has put together a selection of mathematical texts intended as support for a class in the history of mathematics. The selections are organized by historical period, and each section is preceded by an introduction summarizing the history of mathematics in the relevant period. The idea is to allow students to learn the history of mathematics by interacting directly with the historical sources.

The book does not present any new translations, so is heavily dependent on other sourcebooks of the same kind, notably David Eugene Smith's A Source Book in Mathematics and Dirk J. Struik's A Source Book in Mathematics, 1200–1800. The texts are generally well chosen, though Calinger has clearly decided to avoid portions that get technical. As a result, the book is best used as a supplement in history of mathematics courses whose instructors decide to go fairly light on actual mathematics.

For many years, the major competitor to this book was The History of Mathematics: A Reader, edited by John Fauvel and Jeremy Gray. This has been joined, more recently, by Jackie Stedall's Mathematics Emerging and the massive sourcebook on The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam edited by Victor Katz. All of these are more demanding, however, so that Calinger's offering might still have a role to play.

Fernando Q. Gouvêa is Carter Professor of Mathematics at Colby College in Waterville, ME.





1. Protomathematics in the Late Age of Stone and in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

2. The Rise of Theoretical Mathematics in Ancient Greece.

3. The Hellenistic and Roman Periods.

4. Arabic Primacy with Hindu, Chinese, and Maya Contributions.

5. The Medieval-Renaissance-Reformation Periods in Europe.

6. The Scientific Revolution at its Zenith.

7. The Enlightenment (1720-1800).

8. The Nineteenth Century.

9. The Early Twentieth Century to 1932.