I received this book as a gift at my birthday. This graphic novel covers the discussions about the Fundamentals of Mathematics during the progress of the 19th to the 20th century. It was a vivid time when mathematicians asked which basis mathematical reasoning should be built upon. The book retells the story about this time featuring various mathematicians. I read the book in German, but write the review in English.
Summary and review
The book starts with the authors Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou as well as artists Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna discussing how to tell the story. Similar to Maus, the authors switch between the actual storyline and themselves thinking about mathematical conundrums and the progress of the story.
Initially the storyline centers around a lecture of Bertrand Russell, who revises his mathematical enlightments during all his years of life. The book does not go deep into mathematical details. Specifically it does not go beyond the concepts of complete induction, the idea that there are multiple infinities, and Russell’s paradox. It is without any excuse accessible to every person graduating high school. Instead the thought process, personal affairs, encounters between mathematicians and mutual efforts are emphasized. For example, Bertrand’s marriage with Alys Pearsall Smith is one topic of the book.
Through the book, I learned that Russell was Ludwig Wittgenstein's academic advisor, Wittgenstein participated as soldier during the first World War, and Wittgenstein used corporal punishment in his math classes. Furthermore Russell collaborated with Alfred Whitehead on the fundamental work “Principia Mathematica”. The book serves as inspiration for the search of the fundamentals of formal sciences. It is well-drawn and nicely colored. Maus was sometimes difficult to follow, because many different characters come and vanish. But this graphic novel is more linear and the reader has more time to think about the topics themselves. Analogously to Maus, I enjoyed the contextualization where the authors listed historical inaccuracies in the end and gave a brief biographical summary of each mathematician.
This a well-researched and nicely drawn 348 page graphic novel about the fundamentals of mathematics. Anyone into formal sciences will appreciate it. Others might just consider it as a good read!