In this second volume of GREAT MOMENTS IN MATHEMATICS we continue the lecture sequence started in the first volume. Having, in the first volume, presented twenty lectures devoted to outstanding events in mathematics that occurred prior to 1650, in this second volume we devote twenty lectures to outstanding events in mathematics that occurred after 1650. Here the choice of topics was much more difficult than for the first volume; the modern era in mathematics is so rich in fine candidates for GREAT MOMIENTS IN MATHEMATICS that, for sheer lack of space, many had regrettably to be passed over.

The reader will find, as is naturally to be expected, that this second volume is somewhat more demanding than the first volume, but a reasonable acquaintance with beginning differential and integral calculus should suffice for a proper understanding of the material.

Once again, we must apologize for the loss of sparkle and excitement suffered when oral lectures are presented in abbreviated written form. The multitudinous array of lecture props (overhead transparencies, colored slides, maps, portraits, objects, desk experiments, etc.) must be forsaken, and, for lack of space, many charming anecdotes and related stories must be omitted. How much less impelling and stimulating, for example, is the written presentation of Lecture 29, devoted to the thrilling discovery of the first noncommutative algebra. Gone are the transparency portraits of Hamilton, Grassmann, Cayley, and Gibbs; the set of colored slides of a pilgrimage to the Brougham Bridge over the Royal Canal near Dublin, with a shot of the plaque commemorating Hamilton's sudden realization on the evening of October 16, 1843, at that very spot, of the quaternionic multiplication table, and shots of the famous mathematician's favorite walk along the canal tow-path; pictures of Trinity College of Dublin, the Dunsink Observatory, specimens of Hamilton's poetry, and other Hamiltonian memorabilia; and the insightful anecdotes about Ireland's foremost mathematician.


Fox Hollow, Lubec, Maine
Winter 1978-79


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