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Finding Fibonacci
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A compelling firsthand account of Keith Devlin's ten-year quest to tell Fibonacci's story In 2000, Keith Devlin set out to research the life and legacy of the medieval mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, popularly known as Fibonacci, whose book Liber abbaci has quite literally affected the lives of everyone alive today. Although he is most famous for the Fibonacci numbers--which, it so happens, he didn't invent--Fibonacci's greatest contribution was as an expositor of mathematical ideas at a level ordinary people could understand. In 1202, Liber abbaci--the "Book of Calculation"--introduced modern arithmetic to the Western world. Yet Fibonacci was long forgotten after his death, and it was not until the 1960s that his true achievements were finally recognized. Finding Fibonacci is Devlin's compelling firsthand account of his ten-year quest to tell Fibonacci's story. Devlin, a math expositor himself, kept a diary of the undertaking, which he draws on here to describe the project's highs and lows, its false starts and disappointments, the tragedies and unexpected turns, some hilarious episodes, and the occasional lucky breaks. You will also meet the unique individuals Devlin encountered along the way, people who, each for their own reasons, became fascinated by Fibonacci, from the Yale professor who traced modern finance back to Fibonacci to the Italian historian who made the crucial archival discovery that brought together all the threads of Fibonacci's astonishing story. Fibonacci helped to revive the West as the cradle of science, technology, and commerce, yet he vanished from the pages of history. This is Devlin's search to find him.
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Table of Contents

Prelude Sputnik and Calculus 1 1 The Flood Plain 5 2 The Manuscript 18 3 First Steps 35 4 The Statue 42 5 A Walk along the Pisan Riverbank 56 6 A Very Boring Book? 64 7 Franci 72 8 Publishing Fibonacci: From the Cloister to Amazon.com 85 9 Translation 97 10 Reading Fibonacci 116 11 Manuscript Hunting, Part I (Failures) 138 12 Manuscript Hunting, Part II (Success at Last) 151 13 The Missing Link 167 14 This Will Change the World 181 15 Leonardo and the Birth of Modern Finance 192 16 Reflections in a Medieval Mirror 213 Appendix Guide to the Chapters of Liber abbaci 228 Bibliography 236 Index 239

About the Author

Keith Devlin is a mathematician at Stanford University and cofounder and president of BrainQuake, an educational technology company that creates mathematics learning video games. His many books include The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Seventeenth-Century Letter That Made the World Modern. He is "the Math Guy" on National Public Radio. He lives in Palo Alto, California.

Reviews

"In his jaunty book Finding Fibonacci, Keith Devlin sets out to tell the elusive story of the 13th-century mathematician Leonardo of Pisa."--James Ryerson, New York Times Book Review "Devlin leads a cheerful pursuit to rediscover the hero of 13th-century European mathematics, taking readers across centuries and through the back streets of medieval and modern Italy in this entertaining and surprising history... Devlin relates Leonardo's adventures with brio and charm. Readers will enjoy this deft and engaging mix of history, mathematics, and personal travelogue."--Publishers Weekly "Finding Fibonacci showcases Devlin's writerly flair. My favourite passages are the incredible story of how Liber Abaci (or at least, the edition he wrote in 1228, the sole surviving one) became available in English for the first time - to this day the only modern-language translation."--Davide Castelvecchi, Nature "[Devlin] talks his way into Italian research libraries in search of early manuscripts, photographs all 11 street signs on Via Leonardo Fibonacci in Florence and strives to cultivate a love for numbers in his readers."--Andrea Marks, Scientific American "Finding Fibonacci [does] much to restore Leonardo to his proper place in contemporary Western culture."--Dan Friedman, Los Angeles Review of Books "[E]ngaging and entertaining."--Library Journal "A charming new book."--Martijn van Calmthout, de Volkskrant "All in all a book to be recommended. If you already read The Man of Numbers it is most informative to read this 'behind the scenes' version and know how it came about (and what happened after its publication). If you didn't know The Man of Numbers, you at least get a summary of what is in there too. Only it is told in a much more personal and lively version."--Adhemar Bultheel, European Mathematical Society "[A] good beach read for the nerdier among us."--Math Frolic

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