A Tour of the Calculus by David Berlinski

A Tour of the Calculus

Were it not for the calculus, mathematicians would have no way to describe the acceleration of a motorcycle or the effect of gravity on thrown balls and distant planets, or to prove that a man could cross a room and eventually touch the opposite wall. Just how calculus makes these things possible and in doing so finds a correspondence between real numbers and the real world is the subject of this dazzling book by a writer of extraordinary clarity...

Details A Tour of the Calculus

TitleA Tour of the Calculus
Release DateJan 28th, 1997
GenreScience, Mathematics, Nonfiction, History

Reviews A Tour of the Calculus

  • Tom
    unreadably frothy. author may have already died from severe case of terminal cuteness.
  • James Watson
    In writing "A Tour of the Calculus", there are three things that David Berlinski would like you to know, in order:1. David Berlinski has read more books than you.2. David Berlinski is well regarded among mathematicians.3. The motivations and concepts that support calculus as a foundational achievement of modern thought.Let me offer this praise: Berlinski faithfully and artfully expresses what almost every math teacher misses; The motivation for c...
  • Rich
    Florid, ostentatious, and inexcusably pretentious. Berlinski's writing does more to obfuscate than clarify, and wearies rather than enlightens the reader. Understanding mathematics requires selectivity and focus. Berlinski demonstrates that writing about it requires neither. Perhaps the most worthless, overwrought book I've ever suffered through.
  • Alex Stockdale
    Ugh. Almost finished, but what a slog. Picked this book up in an airport bookstore a few years ago (obviously pre-Kindle), and finally decided I should read it or get rid of it. The subject matter is, of course, fascinating. Berlinski's writing, however, seens almost guaranteed to discourage anyone from reading the book (well, maybe graduate-level humanities students would appreciate it – hard to say, since I am not). I have persevered because ...
  • GS Nathan
    David Berlinski starts the book saying that he would like to feel that that the reader says, "Yes, that's it, now I understand", when he or she finishes reading the book. And, sir, atleast this particular reader can report that you have succeeded.Calculus and the concepts behind it have always been the stuff that even people formally educated in its methods find difficult to fully comprehend or explain. Yes, it works. Yes, it is very useful to so...
  • Ryan
    Disclaimer: there is an impossible-to-miss current of casual sexism in this slim volume. This fact is all the more regrettable owing to the book's genius. I bought A Tour of the Calculus because its back cover compared it to Godël, Escher, Bach. That is a worthy comparison.
  • Valerie
    This is a great addition to any study of the calculus. I used it as part of the precalc class one year, and all the students asked to keep their copies. (Granted, it was a small class.)
  • JaeHee
    The author thinks he's funny. He isn't.
  • mpacer
    I could not finish reading this. I tried, I really tried. But the author not only included incomplete and seemingly inaccurate maths, he in no way explained anything clearly, and he didn't do so in what I found to be an entertaining manner. I even got most of his references which would be difficult for others with less of a background in the history of mathematics, but even those I didn't enjoy but internally groaned.I know a good deal of the und...
  • Joshua
    This book is one of the single most incredible books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Berlinski really takes his time in exploring the Calculus, providing insight into it's history and applications as he does so. A phenomenal read: always interesting, rarely difficult, never boring.
  • Jesse Broussard
    Some enjoyable prose, but mostly a cheap script writer attempting to wax mathematical without waxing intelligent.
  • John G
    It has been awhile since I read this. I remember clearly the fine explanations of the origin of the limit in differential calculus. This is very important because it represents a lot of modern mathematical weakness wherein formula are not possible and instead we use approximation and logical induction. As you probably discovered in school, even simple equations with two unknowns can be difficult. And at a higher level of difficulty, 5th degree po...
  • Upom
    In the rushed use of calculus in physics, chemistry, biology, economics, and other subjects, it's easy to forget what an intellectual achievement it really is. "Tour of the Calculus" tries to do something which no other popular math text I've ever read has attempted: it brings poetry to mathematics. Looking both at the obscure characters who made the subject possible, as well as the various definitions, postulates, and theorems that make up the c...
  • Jared
    I've always loved math, but when I took calculus in high school it kind of went over my head, which is unusual. My teachers taught the technical skills to work out calculus problems, but I never learned what was really happening behind the derivatives and integrals; I never learned about instantaneous rates of change or the true relationships between a function, its derivatives, and its integrals.This book changed that completely. It showed me, i...
  • Wanda
    This is a beautifully written book, giving both fanciful historical perspectives as well as excellent analogies to support light proofs. Although the prose is sometimes challenging to parse, I was completely drawn into the scenes painted with (grantedly) florid prose, and even burst out laughing at some of Berlinski’s quips. I had such fun doodling my notes in the sidebars, filling out some details of the proofs that were glossed over... What a...
  • Monty Circus
    I was given this as a gift by my older sister (the shit one), another gift straight out of the bargain bin (or perhaps she found it lying in a gutter somewhere). I thought it would help me with my high school calculus class. I was dead wrong. It addled my brain with garbage and I failed out quickly. Thanks sis!
  • Douglas Weathers
    This book wants to be the calculus in layman's terms, but Berlinski's prose is more complicated than a textbook would be. Even though this isn't bad, I feel like it makes the book more difficult to get through than it needs to be. As complicated as his flowery, ornate writing is, Berlinski still writes well, and offers an interesting look at beginner's calculus.
  • Kurt Schwind
    The book does a better than good job of putting the history and story of the calculus in an easy and entertaining format. However, at times David Berlinski gets very purple in his prose. Enough that I had to take periodic breaks away from reading it to find one of my eyes that rolled so much that it fell out of my head.
  • Kim Zinkowski
  • Greg Givan
    Very useful, conceptual/non-technical overview of the calculus; very useful. I hated all the glib stuff; you'll either like it or, like me, not.
  • William
    I took calculus twice in college, got a "B" the first time and an "Incomplete" the second time. I've always wanted to master it, knew I hadn't, "B" or not. Reading this book didn't get me over the hump into mastery, but its fun to read along and follow what he says. I know why the infinitesimal was the path that Newton and Leibneitz followed as they invented calculus, and I recognize why mathimaticians are uneasy with it and were happy when calcu...
  • Patrik
    I loved this book. Berlinski managed to make the story of “the” calculus both interesting and engaging. Not only that, but I also feel that I now understand calculus better (at a deeper level) than I did before. Berlinski broke up the field of calculus in its two parts, speed and area, then took a deep dive into each, only to bring them together beautifully through the fundamental theorem of calculus. Yes, the language used and the stories to...
  • Aiman Adlawan
    This book is not really showing the reader a 'tour of the calculus' in a sense. It is only picking some underlying concepts and elaborates it in some shallow that is sensible for some beginners who wants to avoid complex explanation. The author has a lot of unnecessary prose which are very annoying. It made me jump to the next page where the main content is explained. This is not a math book but very essential for understanding some concepts.
  • Gunnlaugur
    The ideas and history really are interesting. But this book would have benefited from several more rounds of an editor going “No, seriously David, tone it the hell down” with mounting urgency. The prose is beyond purple, it's ultraviolet, overwrought to a degree that defies parody. I am a complete nerd about both mathematics and language, and still gave up less than a quarter of the way through.
  • Rob Hudson
    I enjoyed the history of how all the math advances came about but it was a bit too flowery for me and I skipped all the proofs which I wasn't interested in. I enjoyed this but struggled to find the history amid the extravagance.
  • Bill White
    My second reading of this book was much more enjoyable than the first time. The author is still seems a little bit too impressed with his own prose, but otherwise an interesting perspective.
  • Merry.Soul
    The style was inspiring at first, but I eventually got tired of the flowery language..
  • Lisa Robinson
    I wish I had read this before I took Calculus!
  • Jeremy
    I don't really agree with the harsher reviews. Granted, this is more of a fun book than a knowledgeable one, it still provided perspective to something I already understood. 3/5.