Reviews of Wind Wizard

"A winning, enlightening investigation into wind engineering and the man who made the airwaves speak."

Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)


"Fascinating insights into some of civil engineering's greatest achievements, and closest shaves...remind[ing] us how much we rely on wind engineering: from portable toilets to space rockets... With climate change making violent storms like Sandy more common, the story of the wind wizard has never been more relevant."

New Scientist


"A masterpiece of science writing at its best: informative, interesting, and entertaining."

—Amir Aczel, author of Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem


"[A] story which...serves as cautionary tale for a world apparently confronting ever more severe weather."

—Marq de Villiers, author of Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weather


"Recommended."

Scientific American


"[A]n unlikely gem."

Nature


Reviews of King of Infinite Space

"King of Infinite Space can be enjoyed even without a specialized knowledge of geometry or math. (Ms. Roberts's own exposition is admirably clear and conscientiously footnoted.) And the book's narrative is heartening. Too often -- think of A Beautiful Mind or Proof -- mathematicians are portrayed these days as seriously disturbed or weirdly obsessed or burnt out at an early age. Here, by contrast, is the true story of an eminent mathematician, active, alert, acute and ever alive to new ideas over a period of 80 years."

- WALL STREET JOURNAL, by Robert Osserman, special projects director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, Calif.


"Roberts takes readers on a wide-ranging tour of contexts in which Coxeter's beloved symmetries have made themselves known, from geodesic domes to the error-correcting codes that make digital recording possible. As always, what is beautiful has ended up being useful... King of Infinite Space is exhaustive and definitive. Roberts's painstaking research, documented by 73 pages of endnotes, turns up many gems. Especially notable is Roberts's access to Coxeter's diaries, which inject the book with anecdotes of rather startling candor.Invaluable... There is no substitute for Coxeter, and no substitute for this long-overdue treatment of his life."

-WASHINGTON POST, by Jordan Ellenberg, assistant professor of mathematics, University of Wisconsin


"Roberts' book really soars in its description of Coxeter's work and his ability to visualize space, to communicate the poetry of geometry and to inspire other mathematicians, physicists and artists...Through Coxeter, Roberts reminds the reader of the visceral and visual excitement that can be found in the universal alphabet of lines and shapes. Although [Amir] Aczel's book is called "The Artist and the Mathematician," it is Coxeter, and not Bourbaki, who emerges as a true creator of beauty, not just elegance."

-CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Nathan L. Harshman, assistant professor of physics, American University


"[King of Infinite Space] is part biography, part scientific history and part epic.[it] offers poignant looks into Coxeter's soul.Thanks to Roberts's passionate writing, Coxeter the legend lives on."

-GLOBE AND MAIL, Jeffrey Rosenthal, professor in the department of statistics at the University of Toronto


"H.M.S. (Donald) Coxeter (1907-2003) was widely recognized and honored by his peers as the greatest living geometer. He was a prolific writer, publishing 12 books and more than 200 papers while at Cambridge, Princeton, and - for 67 years - the University  of Toronto. He influenced prominent researchers, artists, and architects while pursuing theoretical and applied mathematical concepts of space, time, and shape. Canadian journalist Roberts, who won a National Magazine Award for her profile of Coxeter in Toronto Life, uses diaries, interviews, notes, personal vignettes, and stories to depict vividly Coxeter's passion for music, art, mathematics, life in general, and all things of beauty. In addition to successfully crafting a poignant biography, she accurately documents 20th-century mathematical research and scholarship. The author is to be congratulated on the book's simplicity; completeness; excellent use of diagrams, figures, and photographs; appendixes of mathematical notes; and reams of endnotes. A significant work for mathematicians at all levels; recommended for both academic and public libraries."

-STARRED REVIEW in LIBRARY JOURNAL, by Ian D. Gordon, Brock Univ. Lib., St. Catharines, Ont.


"The mathematics of shape and space, geometry was not professionally hip during the career of H. S. M. Coxeter (1907-2003). As Roberts elaborates in this warm but not uncritical portrait, the visual and intuitive aspects of geometry did not attract a field headed in more abstract directions. By the 1950s, a group of French mathematicians mounted the barricades against geometry under the slogan "Death to triangles!" Coxeter took notice but no heed of the radicals, content with his fertile imagination that yielded new geometrical papers up to his nineties. Though keeping geometry vibrant was not Coxeter's intent, it was the effect as, over time, his discoveries came to be useful to architect Buckminster Fuller, string theorists, and Godel, Escher, Bach (1979) author Douglas Hofstadter, who contributes a preface. Roberts accessibly explains the cruxes of Coxeter's discoveries and his place in mathematics history, while her narrative of Coxeter's personal life depicts an aloof but amiable character a bit deficient in the parenting department. With Coxeter appraised by peers as a modern Euclid, Roberts' biography bears inclusion in the popular mathematics collection."

-BOOKLIST, by Gilbert Taylor


“Siobhan Roberts has achieved something extraordinary in this book, a paean to a geometer and all geometry. It tells a brave, compelling story. It comprehends a whole universe — our universe — of kaleidoscopes and crystals, groups and symmetry, bicycles and snowflakes, music and movement. It is lucid, beautiful, and exalting.”

—James Gleick, author of Isaac Newton, Faster, and Chaos


“A biography of Donald Coxeter has long been overdue. Now Siobhan Roberts has provided one, and a marvelous book it is. King of Infinite Space covers all of Coxeter’s major achievements, and in words any reader can understand. Her beautifully written tribute is rich in details about Coxeter’s long life, and his colorful interactions with the world’s top mathematicians. I found it impossible to stop reading.”

—Martin Gardner, longtime "Mathematical Games" columnist in Scientific American, and author of numerous books including The Ambidextrous Universe and most recently Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?


 “What emerges loud and clear in King of Infinite Space is that Siobhan Roberts understands Coxeter’s spirit very deeply. She understands what drove him, and she knows just how to put into words the fire that always inhabits a great mathematician’s soul. I hope that King of Infinite Space will bring to many people not only a sense for the beauty of mathematics itself, but also a sense for how the very human love of hidden patterns and symmetries can result in a hundred years of exultant exploration.”

—Douglas Hofstadter, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, from the Foreword of King of Infinite Space


“King of Infinite Space gives us a lively view of the history of mathematics while weaving the story of Donald Coxeter, a broad-minded genius who built an important bridge between two opposite extremes of mathematical creation—the pictorial world of classical geometry, and the ideal world of abstract algebra.”

—Freeman Dyson, Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, and author of Disturbing the Universe


“Many mathematicians the world-over are enchanted with the beauty and elegance of Donald Coxeter’s work. Although I never studied with Coxeter, in many ways I consider myself an honorary student of this great geometer. Why is it that Coxeter is affectionately remembered by so many mathematicians?  Siobhan Roberts makes the answer quite clear in King of Infinite Space, an elegant biography of an elegant man.”

—John Horton Conway, John von Neumann Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University, and discoverer of Surreal Numbers


“What a wonderful world Siobhan Roberts evokes through this scientific portrait of the inimitable geometer, Donald Coxeter.  Geometry: that subject we all learn early and too quickly forget, opens up again to us and what a universe Coxeter made of it.  Pure mathematics, of course, but also facets of a pineapple, maps of the early universe, shapes of immunoglobulin, structures of architecture, images within kaleidoscopes. Like the fine and thoughtful sketches of Jeremy Bernstein and James Gleick, Roberts succeeds beautifully in crossing mathematics with the quirky, imaginative, and productive life of one of our greatest modern mathematical thinkers.

—Peter Galison, Professor of History of Science, and of Physics, Harvard University, author of Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps


“From Siobhan Roberts' biography of Donald Coxeter we learn that we have been doing geometry all our lives, for geometry's patterns frame perception.  Donald Coxeter, astringent Anglo-Canadian mathematician, was a passionate proponent of geometry; it sustained him for the better part of a century spent 'Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone' (as Wordsworth said of Newton). Siobhan Roberts must have known him well to write this intimate and engaging account of a life-long devotion to shape, as the key to all creation.”

— John Polanyi, Nobel Laureate


"Little icosahedrons and dodecahedrons often rolled across my dining room table during high school -- in games of dice -- but their complex beauty never really struck me.  Donald Coxeter's brilliant geometric vision shows why it should have. Siobhan Roberts has given us a meticulous life of a very special kind of thinker: one who will change the way you experience then world."

—Mark Kingwell, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto, author of The World We Want


“A mathematician once wrote Coxeter "I tried very hard not to spend time on your integrals, but the challenge of a definite integral is irresistible." I tried very hard not to spend time reading King of Infinite Space, because I had other work to do, but I found it irresistible. The book shows clearly the degree to which great mathematicians like Coxeter are artists, led by a sense of beauty beyond the fashionable topics of the day into the heart of the deepest and most elegant mysteries.”

—John Mighton, Fields Fellow, Ashoka Fellow, and author of The Myth of Ability


"Donald Coxeter was a remarkable character, and this book is a fine record of his achievements. The author deserves our admiration for having produced such a lively and accessible account of what might at first seem an arcane subject."

-Sir Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, Master of Trinity College Cambrige, Astronomer Royal


Online Reviews

Peter Woit's "Not Even Wrong" Blog

John Walker's "Fourmilog: None Dare Call It Reason" Blog

John Dupuis's "Confessions of a Science Librarian" Blog

Marshal Zeringue's "Campaign for the American Reader" Blog

 

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