A compelling firsthand account of Keith Devlin's ten-year quest to tell Fibonacci's story
In 2000, Keith Devlin set out to research the life and legacy of the medieval mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, popularly known as Fibonacci, whose book Liber abbaci has quite literally affected the lives of everyone alive today. Although he is most famous for the Fibonacci numbers—which, it so happens, he didn't invent—Fibonacci's greatest contribution was as an expositor of mathematical ideas at a level ordinary people could understand. In 1202, Liber abbaci—the "Book of Calculation"—introduced modern arithmetic to the Western world. Yet Fibonacci was long forgotten after his death, and it was not until the 1960s that his true achievements were finally recognized.
Finding Fibonacci is Devlin's compelling firsthand account of his ten-year quest to tell Fibonacci's story. Devlin, a math expositor himself, kept a diary of the undertaking, which he draws on here to describe the project's highs and lows, its false starts and disappointments, the tragedies and unexpected turns, some hilarious episodes, and the occasional lucky breaks. You will also meet the unique individuals Devlin encountered along the way, people who, each for their own reasons, became fascinated by Fibonacci, from the Yale professor who traced modern finance back to Fibonacci to the Italian historian who made the crucial archival discovery that brought together all the threads of Fibonacci's astonishing story.
Fibonacci helped to revive the West as the cradle of science, technology, and commerce, yet he vanished from the pages of history. This is Devlin's search to find him.
Keith Devlin is a mathematician at Stanford University and cofounder and president of BrainQuake, an educational technology company that creates mathematics learning video games. His many books include The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Seventeenth-Century Letter That Made the World Modern. He is "the Math Guy" on National Public Radio. He lives in Palo Alto, California.
Sputnik and Calculus 1
1 The Flood Plain 5
2 The Manuscript 18
3 First Steps 35
4 The Statue 42
5 A Walk along the Pisan Riverbank 56
6 A Very Boring Book? 64
7 Franci 72
8 Publishing Fibonacci: From the Cloister to Amazon.com 85
9 Translation 97
10 Reading Fibonacci 116
11 Manuscript Hunting, Part I (Failures) 138
12 Manuscript Hunting, Part II (Success at Last) 151
13 The Missing Link 167
14 This Will Change the World 181
15 Leonardo and the Birth of Modern Finance 192
16 Reflections in a Medieval Mirror 213
Guide to the Chapters of Liber abbaci 228