By Alfred S. Posamentier & Ingmar Lehmann
Prometheus Books, 298 pages, $24.00
“Some ‘mistakes’ can lead to very interesting mathematical ideas. For this reason, we have deemed them ‘magnificent mistakes.’”
A very readable and thoroughly enjoyable book, Magnificent Mistakes in Mathematics is not only for mathematicians or for those knowledgeable and interested in math. Most anyone with the slightest interest in the subject is likely to get pleasure from this volume written by two mathematicians, A. S. Posamentier and I. Lehmann. We expect the very exact science of mathematics to be totally free from mistakes. We are amazed in the first chapter in which we read about the many errors of famous mathematicians. Even though very readable thanks to good writing, this is a book you may read when you have a chance for half hour of total concentration, not go through it cover to cover. But mistakes are just as common, as we learn later, in arithmetic, algebra and geometry, and in the highly exacting branch, probability and statistics. The many black-and-white sketches, tables and graphs help you understand the individual stories. You’ll come to places you need to skip (unless you are a mathematician) as the authors get into higher mathematics. Then you get into fascinating puzzles too with surprising solutions. Superscript numbers refer to endnotes listed at the end. A fascinating book!
Reviewed by George Erdosh