Significant Figures

The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians

by Ian Stewart

A celebrated mathematician traces the history of math through the lives and work of twenty-five pioneering mathematicians

In Significant Figures, acclaimed mathematician Ian Stewart explores the work of 25 of history's most important mathematicians, showing how they developed on each other's work and built the mathematics we use today.

Through these short biographies, we get acquainted with the history of mathematics from Archimedes to William Thurston, and learn about those too often left out of the cannon, such as Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, the creator of algebra; Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer; and Emmy Noether, whose research on symmetry paved the way for modern physics.

Tracing the evolution of mathematics over the course of two millennia, Significant Figures will educate and delight aspiring mathematicians and experts alike.


  • Basic Books; September 2017
  • ISBN: 9780465096138
  • Edition: 1
  • Read online, or download in secure ePub format
  • Title: Significant Figures
  • Author: Ian Stewart
  • Imprint: Basic Books

In The Press

"Stewart folds into his biographies a broad swath of mathematics, including Euclidian and non-Euclidean geometries, set theory, calculus, algebra, and topology; readers with an affinity for math will find the material challenging and fun."
Publishers Weekly


About The Author

Ian Stewart is emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick and the author of numerous books on mathematics, including Do Dice Play God?, Calculating the Cosmos, In Pursuit of the Unknown, and Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures. He lives in Coventry, UK.