From the Ishango Bone of central Africa and the Inca quipu of South America to the dawn of modern mathematics, The Crest of the Peacock makes it clear that human beings everywhere have been capable of advanced and innovative mathematical thinking. George Gheverghese Joseph takes us on a breathtaking multicultural tour of the roots and shoots of non-European mathematics. He shows us the deep influence that the Egyptians and Babylonians had on the Greeks, the Arabs' major creative contributions, and the astounding range of successes of the great civilizations of India and China.
The third edition emphasizes the dialogue between civilizations, and further explores how mathematical ideas were transmitted from East to West. The book's scope is now even wider, incorporating recent findings on the history of mathematics in China, India, and early Islamic civilizations as well as Egypt and Mesopotamia. With more detailed coverage of proto-mathematics and the origins of trigonometry and infinity in the East, The Crest of the Peacock further illuminates the global history of mathematics.
When we hear that mathematics is both the most noble endeavor of our species and that it was born in Europe, we naturally tend to be suspicious. Few writers could be as well-qualified to write about ancient math across the world as George Gheverghese Joseph, whose The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics is a bright example of clear exposition and argument. Though the topic might intimidate those averse to mathematics, history, non-Western cultures, or some combination thereof, the book is essential for any reader who seeks a clearer understanding of any one of those. Joseph doesn't make things easy for nonmathematicians or nonhistorians, but the pleasure of meeting his challenge is robust. He explains ancient African, American, and Asian methods of counting and manipulating numbers with ease, paying particular attention to the historical development of and interrelationships between cultures. When discussing systems of mathematics as complex as those taught in ancient India and China, Joseph includes sample problems and discussions to help the interested student see numbers as past learners did. The revised edition includes a lengthy section, titled "Reflections," that updates and expands much of the material. Few readers will be able to match Joseph's grasp of both history and mathematics, but all will find The Crest of the Peacock as delightful and elegant as its subjects. --Rob Lightner