Unknown Quantity:: A Real and Imaginary History of AlgebraPrime Obsession taught us not to be afraid to put the math in a math book. Unknown Quantity heeds the lesson well. So grab your graphing calculators, slip out the slide rules, and buckle up! John Derbyshire is introducing us to algebra through the ages  and it promises to be just what his diehard fans have been waiting for. "Here is the story of algebra." With this deceptively simple introduction, we begin our journey. Flanked by formulae, shadowed by roots and radicals, escorted by an expert who navigates unerringly on our behalf, we are guaranteed safe passage through even the most treacherous mathematical terrain. Our first encounter with algebraic arithmetic takes us back 38 centuries to the time of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, Ur and Haran, Sodom and Gomorrah. Moving deftly from Abel's proof to the higher levels of abstraction developed by Galois, we are eventually introduced to what algebraists have been focusing on during the last century. As we travel through the ages, it becomes apparent that the invention of algebra was more than the start of a specific discipline of mathematics  it was also the birth of a new way of thinking that clarified both basic numeric concepts as well as our perception of the world around us. Algebraists broke new ground when they discarded the simple search for solutions to equations and concentrated instead on abstract groups. This dramatic shift in thinking revolutionized mathematics. Written for those among us who are unencumbered by a fear of formulae, Unknown Quantity delivers on its promise to present a history of algebra. Astonishing in its bold presentation of the math and graced with narrative authority, our journey through the world of algebra is at once intellectually satisfying and pleasantly challenging. 
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Review: Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra
User Review  Marc Towersap  GoodreadsI did enjoy this book, a bit of a slog, maybe took 2 months to get through it. I worked through much of the math to ensure I understood it. The history was quite interesting, I really enjoyed the way ... Read full review
Review: Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra
User Review  Nishant Pappireddi  GoodreadsAs someone who has already been exposed to many, if not most, of the ideas in this book, I was hoping that it would be more interesting to me than the usual popular math book. "Unknown Quantity ... Read full review
Contents
Numbers and Polynomials  7 
The Unknown Quantity  17 
Four Thousand Years Ago  19 
The Father of Algebra  31 
Completion and Reduction  43 
Cubic and Quartic Equations  57 
Commerce and Competition  65 
Relief for the Imagination  81 
An Oblong Arrangement of Terms  161 
Victorias Brumous Isles  177 
Levels of Abstraction  193 
Field Theory  195 
Pistols at Dawn  206 
Lady of the Rings  223 
Algebraic Geometry  241 
Geometry Makes a Comeback  253 