HIS LIVES AND THE LEGACY OF A RATIONAL UNIVERSE
The ideas of Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans transformed the ancient world and still undergird and influence the way we think, in science, mathematics, philosophy, the arts and everyday life.
This book vividly evokes the Mediterranean of the 6th century BC, traces the way ideas spread in antiquity, and chronicles the incredible influence Pythagoras and his followers have had on extraordinary people, from Plato to Bertrand Russell, throughout the history of Western thought and science . . . as well as the way these same extraordinary people have, in their turn, reinvented “Pythagoras.”
• • • • • • REVIEWS • • • • • •
“A magnificent grand tour of the history of mathematics and how it has shaped our understanding of the universe . . . provides deep insight into how the West has manufactured and maintains its Greek roots. A valuable and inspiring read. Not so much a life of Pythagoras as a biography of the idea of Pythagoras.”
The Independent, London
“A stimulating and wide-ranging study of how the Greek mathematician and philosopher’s key insights have been at the heart of an enormous range of subsequent thought. Ferguson not only sets Pythagoras in his sixth century context but shows his influence down the centuries. Of special interest is her discussion of the thinking of Bertrand Russell and Arthur Koestler, Russell arguing that the influence had been negative, Koestler that it has been enormously positive. A pioneering and thought-provoking study.”
The History Association, Great Britain
“Pythagoras and his legacy are smoothly and succinctly developed.”
The Times, London
“Through the insightful eyes of popular science writer Ferguson, readers glimpse the enormous impact of the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and his followers and the ideas associated with them. She describes the mythology that surrounded Pythagoras, as well as the facts behind the legend, and how those myths changed over time but continued to influence natural inquiry. Covering thinkers such as Aristotle and Kepler, Ferguson shows how Pythagorean themes played a role in their developing new ideas. This work is a joy to read. It is important to note that Ferguson’s book is far more than a biography.”
“This detailed biography of Pythagoras is an account both of the man and his legacy (that’s not just triangles). The story is a many-layered palimpsest that Ferguson expertly deciphers. How many of today’s thinkers will be so lauded in the 45th century?”
“Evoking Pythagoras’ pull on philosophers from Plato to Bertrand Russell, Ferguson shows how Pythagorean thought fascinated and even frightened great minds through the ages. The original Pythagoreans excited great hostility, and Russell was no fan either. A lively narrative and a bounty of information make Ferguson a must in popular mathematics.”
“[Ferguson] comes on like a good friend bursting with some amazing thing she can’t wait to share (the passages on Bertrand Russell are particularly sharp and funny).”
“An engaging survey of the ideas that have been thought of as Pythagorean.”
The Wall Street Journal
“I have read Kitty Ferguson’s new book, The Music of Pythagoras, and would like to make a few brief comments on it. What an overwhelming challenge the subject was. What an enormous amount of reading and research was required. How much conceptual skill in organization and clarity of mind were needed to write it. And how well written it is. With her basic knowledge – of science, and numbers, and music – and understanding, and humanity, and ability to insert gently reassuring touches of humor as we face the prospect of this quantum world, Kitty was the right one to do it. Having read her book once, I am sure of its significance and intend to read it again. And possibly even again and again.”
“Having just closed the cover on Kitty Ferguson’s “The Music of Pythagoras,” I can attest to its worthiness to be at the top of any readers list.
Most people when hearing the name Pythagoras equate it to the Pythagorean theorem they learned about in geometry class, but in The Music of Pythagoras the reader will find whole new concepts of Pythagorean perceptions from an author well acquainted with the subject matter, and whose own reflections and insights extend to the reader the author’s own essence of scholarship.
When you consider the paradigms of our contemporary world, we owe to the Pythagoreans the essence of our intellectual foundations. Yes, we are indebted to the ancient Greeks, and in particular the Pythagorean following, for a lot more than a few mathematical concepts. The roots of many of our words today are descendent from the more ancient Greek words, our institutions of intellectual edifice are patterned after Plato’s Academy, and the philosophical fabric of both our secular and religious precepts are inexplicably interwoven with threads first stitched by the Pythagoreans 2500 years ago. Ferguson delivers with a sense of mathematical precision which would have inspired the Pythagoreans themselves, an authentic portrayal of these ancient enlightened people, their beliefs, and the implications such have on us today.
The only question I was left with about this book, is to which section of the book store I should direct you to find a copy of it. Would you find it under History, Science, Philosophy, Religion, Music, or in some other location? I got my copy off of Amazon .com, so I don’t really know the answer to this one, but I can tell you that this book would be equally well positioned under any of these topical classifications.
Add this book to your reading list. I can promise only that it will be an intellectually stimulating exercise for you, but perhaps as was the case for me, it will be a lot more.“
John Traveler, for Helium
• • • • • • TABLE OF CONTENTS • • • • • •
Lifetimes and Other Significant Dates
Part I: Sixth Century B.C.
“At the hinge of legend and history”
The Long-haired Samian
“Entirely different from the institutions of the Greeks”
“Among them was a man of immense knowledge”
“My true race is of heaven”
“All things known have number”
“The Famous Figure of Pythagoras”
Part II: Fifth Century B.C.-Seventh Century A.D.
A Book by Philolaus the Pythagorean
Plato’s Search for Pythagoras
“The ancients, our superiors, who dwelt nearer
to the gods, have passed this word on to us”
From Aristotle to Euclid
The Roman Pythagoras
Through Neo-Pythagorean and Ptolemaic Eyes
The Wrap-up of Antiquity
Part III: Eighth-Twentyfirst Century A.D.
“Dwarfs on the shoulders of giants,” Pythagoras in the Middle Ages
“Wherein Nature shows herself most excellent and complete”
“While the morning stars sang together”: Johannes Kepler
Enlightened and Illuminated
The Labyrinths of Simplicity
Appendix, Notes, Bibliography, Index