Book review: From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centuries by Chris Waring

‘There’s no hiding from maths,’ declares Chris Waring as he sets out on an amazing countdown through 26 centuries of number crunching.

From the Big Bang theory to improving your chances of winning a TV game show and comparing offers on the Internet, mathematics is used to explain everything ... and its history is as fascinating as its role in our everyday lives.

Most of us have learned maths and the techniques of arithmetic, geometry and algebra but few of us know much about its back story, so sit back and enjoy a maths lesson like no other!

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Teacher Chris Waring brings us the extraordinary history of maths from its origins in prehistoric times to the invention of computers, and takes a look at what the future may hold. We learn how to count in hieroglyphics, why the Greeks did so much maths and why so little maths was done in the Dark Ages.

Exploring the mysteries of maths has never been so much fun as we meet the men behind the equations – Aristotle, Socrates, Euclid, Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo who claimed that ‘mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.’

Learn more about the charismatic grand master Pythagoras, the numbers genius who flummoxed us with his theorems. When he wasn’t doing his sums, he was coining the term ‘Googol’ and running a secret brotherhood in which members avoided talking and followed a vegetarian diet.

Yes, thousands of years of eccentricity, human endeavour and physical experimentation have gone into making numbers work for almost every aspect of our lives. Even the earliest Stone Age tribes had a child-like grasp of numbers, including using their fingers for counting, a system of communicating numbers which is still used today in places like the Stock Exchange trading floor.

The Neolithics developed ‘pebble counting’ which they employed to count their herds of sheep and by 3000 BC, the dawn of urban society, trade and tax collection, the dreaded accountants were already at work.

From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centuries is packed full of brilliant facts and surprising stories from ancient times to the modern day... an entertaining, accessible and must-have read for anyone interested in the human workings of maths.

(Michael O’Mara Books, hardback, £9.99)