Feb 19, 2019
Lancelot Hogben's Mathematics for the Million might actually be the right book for the one million readers alluded to in the title. But assuming 90% of adults worldwide are literate, one million is only a very tiny fraction of them. The remainder of readers would probably find this book a little too daunting to be pleased with. I love the book, which means I'm one of the million. First published in 1937, revised several times, and reprinted at least 44 times up to the present day, Mathematics for the Million has a literary charm that betrays an earlier era. The modern reader would probably find this annoying or even pretentious and would likely prefer a more plain-spoken prose. But if the reader can overlook -- or even embrace -- the author's writing style, they would benefit from a work that is at once a lively history book, a thorough mathematics primer, and an advanced mathematics textbook all in one place.
The author endeavors to link each step in the development of mathematics with the practical needs that had arisen in history, indicating the relevant persons and culture. He refreshingly provides a rich context for every problem being solved, whether it be in India, China, Greece, Egypt or the Islamic world of antiquity, always giving full credit where credit is due.
Winning the endorsements of the likes of H. G. Wells and Albert Einstein, this book remains a classic. Although any curious, educated person could find a good read in this book, I'm afraid it will probably remain mostly beloved by teachers of mathematics, history buffs, engineers, or others with an academic background.