"The book makes a fascinating reading, permitting to perceive the birth of new ideas, and to understand why they should have been born... There are four chapters: Protohistory, Fermat and his correspondents, Euler and An age of transition: Lagrange and Legendre, and also several appendices, which introduce a modern point of view and provide proofs for many mentioned results. The book is strongly recommended to anybody interested in the history of mathematics and should be on the shelf of every number-theorist."
"As the author says, this is a historical treatment of that oldest and purest field of mathematics, the theory of numbers; his presentation is meticulous and scholarly... The volume under review...is a discursive, expository, leisurely peek over the shoulders of several great authors in number theory, a subject "conspicuous for the quality rather than for the number of its devotees; at the same time it is perhaps unique in the enthusiasm it has inspired", as Professor Weil says in his preface."
A very unusual book combining thorough philological exactness, keen observation, apt comments of the essential points, picturesque fantasy, enthusiastic love of the subject, and brilliant literary style: a romantic novel of documents. It is both number theory and its history in an inseparable oneness, helping us understand the very roots and the first big stage of progress of this discipline. The author, one of the most prominent number theorists…chose to give us a broad perspective of the birth of modern number theory.
--Periodica Mathematica HungariaVom Verlag:
This book presents a historical overview of number theory. It examines texts that span some thirty-six centuries of arithmetical work, from an Old Babylonian tablet to Legendre's Essai sur la Théorie des Nombres, written in 1798. Coverage employs a historical approach in the analysis of problems and evolving methods of number theory and their significance within mathematics. The book also takes the reader into the workshops of four major authors of modern number theory: Fermat, Euler, Lagrange and Legendre and presents a detailed and critical examination of their work.
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