Book ID: CBB001551299

Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World (2014)


Alexander, Amir R. (Author)

Scientific American

Publication Date: 2014
Physical Details: 352 pp.; ill.
Language: English

The epic battle over a mathematical concept that shook the old order and shaped the world as we know it. On August 10, 1632, five leaders of the Society of Jesus convened in a somber Roman palazzo to pass judgment on a simple idea: that a continuous line is composed of distinct and limitlessly tiny parts. The doctrine would become the foundation of calculus, but on that fateful day the judges ruled that it was forbidden. With the stroke of a pen they set off a war for the soul of the modern world. Amir Alexander's Infinitesimal is the story of the struggle that pitted Europe's entrenched powers against voices for tolerance and change. It takes us from the bloody religious strife of the sixteenth century to the battlefields of the English civil war and the fierce confrontations between leading thinkers like Galileo and Hobbes. We see how a small mathematical disagreement became a contest over the nature of the heavens and the earth: Was the world entirely known and ruled by a divinely sanctioned rationality and hierarchy? Or was it a vast and mysterious place, ripe for exploration? The legitimacy of popes and kings, as well as our modern beliefs in human liberty and progressive science, hung in the balance; the answer hinged on the infinitesimal. Pulsing with drama and excitement, Infinitesimal will forever change the way you look at a simple line--and celebrates the spirit of discovery, innovation, and intellectual achievement"-- "The epic battle over a mathematical concept that shook the old order and shaped the world as we know it

Reviewed By

Review Davide Crippa (2018) Review of "Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 183-184). unapi

Review Barany, Michael J. (2015) Review of "Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World". British Journal for the History of Science (pp. 362-364). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Boner, Patrick J.
Pierre Journoud
Anne-Laure Anizan
Crippa, Davide
Anne-Sandrine Paumier
Chang, Ping-Ying
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
British Journal for the History of Mathematics
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Revue d'Histoire des Mathématiques
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Intellectual History Review
Princeton University Press
Georg Olms Verlag
Development of science; change in science
Science and culture
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von
Descartes, René
Takebe, Katahiro
Spinoza, Baruch
Seki, Takakazu
Rho, Giacomo
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
18th century
19th century
Early modern
Edo period (Japan, 1603-1868)
Padua (Italy)
Astronomical Bureau (China)
Royal Society of London

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