Like its sister charts, The History of Biology and The History of Chemistry, this is more a reference “book” than a reading book, and the fact that it’s a six foot by two foot wall chart makes it a pain to read unless you have a rather large bare space on a wall to hang it. It’s excellent for a high school class, but not exactly a page-turner for the casual reader.

But I like it a lot. The funny pictures aren’t the reason. Here as it happens Asimov intrudes—and well—on my own interests, inasmuch as I am myself a mathematician and historian of mathematics by training. In particular, my area of interest was the history of Chinese mathematics, and it is with considerable pleasure that I noted the highlights of Chinese mathematics included as well as Western math. (Unfortunately, Asimov fails to mention the independent development of calculus in Japan, but I suppose one can’t have everything.)

One unfortunate feature of the history of mathematics as opposed to the history of other sciences is that most of the advances made in the last couple of centuries are pretty hard to explain to anyone who isn’t an expert in the field, and there are a couple of spots in the chart which I must confess are near gibberish to me. (One wonders how Asimov managed to put it together.) And it’s just old enough to miss out on Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. But that doesn’t matter. It’s a terrific chart, and I really, really like it. I’m glad I’ve got it, and as soon as I can clear a couple of square meters off my wall, I’m gonna hang it up.

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