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.
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.
"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
"A charmingly personal account of Keith Devlin's long quixotic search to understand the man, Leonardo Bonacci, better known as Fibonacci, as well as the thirteenth-century mathematician's surprisingly pervasive influence."—John Allen Paulos, author of Innumeracy and A Numerate Life
"Lovers of history, travel, and mathematics alike will relish this journey through time to ancient worlds, as master expositor Keith Devlin navigates Italy to uncover the beginnings of modern math. Fascinating!"—Danica McKellar, New York Times bestselling author of Math Doesn't Suck
"Though most of us only know about Leonardo of Pisa (aka Fibonacci) because of the numbers named after him, he was in fact the Steve Jobs of the thirteenth century who ushered in a revolution—as we learn from this fascinating book that reads by turns as a detective novel, a moving personal journey, and a meditation on the fate of modernity. Highly recommended to all lovers of math and history."—Edward Frenkel, professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Love and Math
"An unusual and fascinating personal account of a modern mathematician's quest to separate truth from myth and show us the real ‘Fibonacci.'"--Ian Stewart, author of Professor Stewart's Incredible Numbers
Table of Contents:
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
Guide to the Chapters of Liber abbaci 228