Unlike a typical stiff, boring, Mathematics textbook one might come across in a classroom setting, e: the Story of a Number by Eli Maor (1994) humanizes the number e in way of depicting its long history in which it was "invented" (or discovered, whichever you believe). It balances equations and - as the book puts - pure mathematics with applied mathematics and the history of the mathematicians that have formed mathematics as we know (and love) today.
I was (pleasantly) surprised that the book not only covered the number e and its brother ln (which I was expecting) but also covered various trigonometric topics, differentiation, anti-differentiation, and other famous numbers such as pi and i. This book is very well rounded and very well written: most ideas written in layman's terms.
Since most (including myself) have learned math through a series of building blocks, it is refreshing to explore along with Maor how those long ago learned mathematics. Also, reading of the lives of mathematicians was rewarding as well; it allowed the static "characters" in a typical math textbook to be more dynamic and relate-able. I would easily recommend this book even to those with average math background and skills, especially if one were newly starting their journey in the subject; the book does a fantastic job of giving a deeper explanation of how different mathematics links together.
To conclude, I cannot say with confidence that I was eager to start this book, but come the end of it I was in full math-nerd mode, happy that I did.
Extensions/Aspects I Found interesting:
-The "log base 10" being the normal base came from the mathematician Henry Briggs who suggested
- That e can be written as
- logarithmic spiral: First studied by Descartes in 1638 and then by Jakob Bernoulli, the logarithmic spiral is quite interesting. For example, I had not known before that every straight line through the origin intersects the spiral at the same angle. This is the only curve that does this.
- Euler's Formula and Identity fascinated me. We discussed the topic in class however the book divulged much more information. Chapter Thirteen is titled most appropriately:
The talk about how amazing Euler's Identity was had me searching the web for their reactions to the famous identity:
(1) I like this video for it shows a way to describe the famous identity to those without much mathematical background
(2)This Video shows all of the components of such a nice equation.