Hermann Graßmann: Biography

Springer Science & Business Media
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Hermann Günther Graßmann was one of the most remarkable personalities in 19th-century science. A "small-town genius", he developed a groundbreaking n-dimensional algebra of space and contributed to a revolution in the understanding of mathematics. His work fascinated great mathematicians such as W. R. Hamilton, J. W. Gibbs and A. N. Whitehead. This intellectual biography traces Graßmann’s steps towards scientific brilliance by untangling a complicated web of influences: the force of unsolved problems in mathematics, Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Dialectic, German Romanticism and life in 19th-century Prussia. The book also introduces the reader to the details of Graßmann’s mathematical work without neglecting his achievements in Sanskrit philology and physics. And, for the first time, it makes many original sources accessible to the English-language reader.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Springer Science & Business Media
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Published on
Dec 30, 2009
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Pages
306
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ISBN
9783764388607
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Language
English
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Genres
Mathematics / General
Mathematics / History & Philosophy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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"In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began."—Albert Einstein

The year was 1915, and the young mathematician Emmy Noether had just settled into Göttingen University when Albert Einstein visited to lecture on his nearly finished general theory of relativity. Two leading mathematicians of the day, David Hilbert and Felix Klein, dug into the new theory with gusto, but had difficulty reconciling it with what was known about the conservation of energy. Knowing of her expertise in invariance theory, they requested Noether’s help. To solve the problem, she developed a novel theorem, applicable across all of physics, which relates conservation laws to continuous symmetries—one of the most important pieces of mathematical reasoning ever developed.

Noether’s "first" and "second" theorem was published in 1918. The first theorem relates symmetries under global spacetime transformations to the conservation of energy and momentum, and symmetry under global gauge transformations to charge conservation. In continuum mechanics and field theories, these conservation laws are expressed as equations of continuity. The second theorem, an extension of the first, allows transformations with local gauge invariance, and the equations of continuity acquire the covariant derivative characteristic of coupled matter-field systems. General relativity, it turns out, exhibits local gauge invariance. Noether’s theorem also laid the foundation for later generations to apply local gauge invariance to theories of elementary particle interactions.

In Dwight E. Neuenschwander’s new edition of Emmy Noether’s Wonderful Theorem, readers will encounter an updated explanation of Noether’s "first" theorem. The discussion of local gauge invariance has been expanded into a detailed presentation of the motivation, proof, and applications of the "second" theorem, including Noether’s resolution of concerns about general relativity. Other refinements in the new edition include an enlarged biography of Emmy Noether’s life and work, parallels drawn between the present approach and Noether’s original 1918 paper, and a summary of the logic behind Noether’s theorem.

-- Cliff Chancey, University of Northern Iowa
Today complex numbers have such widespread practical use--from electrical engineering to aeronautics--that few people would expect the story behind their derivation to be filled with adventure and enigma. In An Imaginary Tale, Paul Nahin tells the 2000-year-old history of one of mathematics' most elusive numbers, the square root of minus one, also known as i. He recreates the baffling mathematical problems that conjured it up, and the colorful characters who tried to solve them.

In 1878, when two brothers stole a mathematical papyrus from the ancient Egyptian burial site in the Valley of Kings, they led scholars to the earliest known occurrence of the square root of a negative number. The papyrus offered a specific numerical example of how to calculate the volume of a truncated square pyramid, which implied the need for i. In the first century, the mathematician-engineer Heron of Alexandria encountered I in a separate project, but fudged the arithmetic; medieval mathematicians stumbled upon the concept while grappling with the meaning of negative numbers, but dismissed their square roots as nonsense. By the time of Descartes, a theoretical use for these elusive square roots--now called "imaginary numbers"--was suspected, but efforts to solve them led to intense, bitter debates. The notorious i finally won acceptance and was put to use in complex analysis and theoretical physics in Napoleonic times.

Addressing readers with both a general and scholarly interest in mathematics, Nahin weaves into this narrative entertaining historical facts and mathematical discussions, including the application of complex numbers and functions to important problems, such as Kepler's laws of planetary motion and ac electrical circuits. This book can be read as an engaging history, almost a biography, of one of the most evasive and pervasive "numbers" in all of mathematics.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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