Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) was not just one of the most inventive, versatile, and productive mathematicians of all time--he was also a leading physicist who almost won a Nobel Prize for physics and a prominent philosopher of science whose fresh and surprising essays are still in print a century later. The first in-depth and comprehensive look at his many accomplishments, Henri Poincaré explores all the fields that Poincaré touched, the debates sparked by his original investigations, and how his discoveries still contribute to society today.
Math historian Jeremy Gray shows that Poincaré's influence was wide-ranging and permanent. His novel interpretation of non-Euclidean geometry challenged contemporary ideas about space, stirred heated discussion, and led to flourishing research. His work in topology began the modern study of the subject, recently highlighted by the successful resolution of the famous Poincaré conjecture. And Poincaré's reformulation of celestial mechanics and discovery of chaotic motion started the modern theory of dynamical systems. In physics, his insights on the Lorentz group preceded Einstein's, and he was the first to indicate that space and time might be fundamentally atomic. Poincaré the public intellectual did not shy away from scientific controversy, and he defended mathematics against the attacks of logicians such as Bertrand Russell, opposed the views of Catholic apologists, and served as an expert witness in probability for the notorious Dreyfus case that polarized France.
Richly informed by letters and documents, Henri Poincaré demonstrates how one man's work revolutionized math, science, and the greater world.
Jeremy Gray is professor of the history of mathematics at the Open University, and an honorary professor at the University of Warwick. His most recent book is Plato's Ghost: The Modernist Transformation of Mathematics (Princeton).
"[M]asterly . . . Gray encapsulates Poincaré's multiple dimensions; his intellectual biography is both a tour de force and a triumph of readability."--George Szpiro, Nature
"Gray shows us the full dazzling sweep of what Poincaré accomplished, including the work on dynamical systems and chaos that only came into its own in recent years. A tour de force, Gray's masterful treatment will long remain an invaluable resource for all who want to understand Poincaré, so embedded within his times and yet so far ahead of them."--Peter Pesic, Science
"[A] comprehensive but uncluttered guide to Poincaré's extensive oeuvres."--Madeline Muntersbjorn, Times Higher Education
"Full of the mathematical, physical and metaphysical ideas of a man who was not only a dispassionate observer of the world around us, but of our way of understanding it."--Mark Ronan, Standpoint Magazine (U.K.)
"[A] comprehensive assessment of Poincare's work and its importance, essential for anyone interested in Poincare's scholarship or the history of mathematics."--Laura Tarwater Scharp, Sacramento Book Review
"A fundamental study of the scientific work of one of the greatest mathematicians and mathematical physicists of the three decades straddling the 19th and 20th centuries. . . . Chapters are organized topically, not chronologically. Each illuminates in depth one or other of Poincaré's works but all are set in context both historical and temathic such that each can serve as an introduction into the many subjects to which Poincaré made a contribution."--Alexander Bogomolny, CTK Insights
"Poincare's work is fully alive in science today. This biography is one of the first thorough introductions to his work, it should get the attention of mathematicians, natural scientists and philosophers."--Ferdinand Verhulst, European Legacy
Table of Contents
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Jeremy Gray: