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A Brief History of Impossibility

by Jeff Suzuki

Award: Carl B. Allendoerfer

Year of Award: 2009

Publication Information: Mathematics Magazine, vol. 81, no. 1, February 2008, pp. 27-38

Summary: The author reviews the developments that lead to Wantzel's proof in 1837 that trisection of the angle with only straightedge and compass is impossible.

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About the Author: (From the Prizes and Awards Booklet, MathFest 2009) Jeff Suzuki is currently associate professor of mathematics at Brooklyn College. He grew up in southern California with an inability to decide what he really wanted to do, so he earned a bachelor's in mathematics (with a physics concentration) and history from California State University, Fullerton. He went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. from Boston University, with a dissertation on the history of a topic in mathematical physics. Still unsure of what he really wants to do, he has spent some of the past year developing a course on cryptography, researching interdisciplinary topics in mathematics, and learning sign language. His wife Jacqui and children William X and Dorothy Z (yes, their middle names are X and Z) somehow manage to put up with his idiosyncrasies and have survived his culinary, literary, and musical efforts. His latest book, Mathematics in Historical Context, has just been published by the MAA (2009).

Subject classification(s): Algebra and Number Theory | Algebra | Geometry and Topology | Plane Geometry | Angles
Publication Date: 
Saturday, August 29, 2009