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James Joseph Sylvester : Life and Work in Letters

ISBN: 9780199671380 | 0199671389
Edition: Reprint
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Pub. Date: 4/6/2013

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In the folklore of mathematics, James Joseph Sylvester (1814-1897) is the eccentric, hot-tempered, sword-cane-wielding, nineteenth-century British Jew who, together with the taciturn Arthur Cayley, developed a theory and language of invariants that then died spectacularly in the 1890s as aresult of David Hilbert's groundbreaking, 'modern' techniques. This, like all folklore, has some grounding in fact but owes much to fiction. The present volume brings together for the first time 140 letters from Sylvester's correspondence in an effort to establish the true picture. It reveals -through the letters as well as through the detailed mathematical and historical commentary accompanying them - Sylvester the friend, man of principle, mathematician, poet, professor, scientific activist, social observer, traveller. It also provides a detailed look at Sylvester's thoughts and thoughtprocesses as it shows him acting in both personal and professional spheres over the course of his eighty-two year life. The Sylvester who emerges from this analysis - unlike the Sylvester of the folkloric caricature - offers deep insight into the development of the technical and social structures ofmathematics.


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