A number of years ago, Harriet Sheridan, then Dean of Brown University, organized a series oflectures in which individual faculty members described how it came about that they entered their various fields. I was invited to participate in this series and found in the invitation an opportunity to recall events going back to my early teens. The lecture was well received and its reception encouraged me to work up an expanded version. My manuscript lay dormant all these years. In the meanwhile, sufficiently many other mathematical experiences and encounters accumulated to make this little book. My 1981 lecture is the basis of the first piece: "Napoleon's Theorem. " Although there is a connection between the first piece and the second, the four pieces here are essentially independent. The sec ond piece, "Carpenter and the Napoleon Ascription," has as its object a full description of a certain type of scholar-storyteller (of whom I have known and admired several). It is a pastiche, contain ing a salad bar selection blended together by my own imagination. This piece purports, as a secondary goal, to present a solution to a certain unsolved historical problem raised in the first piece. The third piece, "The Man Who Began His Lectures with 'Namely'," is a short reminiscence of Stefan Bergman, one of my teachers of graduate mathematics. Bergman, a remarkable person ality, was born in Poland and came to the United States in 1939.
I Napoleon's Theorem.- II Carpenter and the Napoleon Ascription.- III The Man Who Began His Lectures with "Namely".- IV The Rothschild I Knew.- Acknowledgments.
"This is a truly fascinating story which ... provides an insight into the life of an outstanding scientific writer."
-J. Usher, Mathematics Today
"If I ever were stranded in an airport, bored silly and searching for someone to talk to, I think I'd like Phillip J. Davis to be stranded with me... Davis appears to have no artifice. His book is a compendium of several tales that caught his interest. It's also a book that, often subtly, reveals the sort of mathematical lore that keeps mathematicians talking as they gather for afternoon tea in universities throughout the country."
Springer Book Archives