The Secret Lives of Numbers

Kate Kitagawa, Timothy Revell


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Penguin Books Ltd
17 August 2023
ISBN: 9780241544112
320 pages

From the publisher

A revisionist, completely accessible and radically inclusive history of maths

Mathematics shapes almost everything we do. But despite its reputation as the study of fundamental truths, the stories we have been told about it are wrong. In The Secret Lives of Numbers, historian Kate Kitagawa and journalist Timothy Revell introduce readers to the mathematical boundary-smashers who have been erased by history because of their race, gender or nationality.

From the brilliant Arabic scholars of the ninth-century House of Wisdom, and the pioneering African American mathematicians of the twentieth century, to the 'lady computers' around the world who revolutionised our knowledge of the night sky, we meet these fascinating trailblazers and see how they contributed to our global knowledge today.

Along the way, the mathematics itself is explained extremely clearly, for example, calculus is described using the authors' home baking, as they pose the question: how much cake is in our cake? This revisionist, completely accessible and radically inclusive history of mathematics is as entertaining as it is important.