What We Are Reading Today: Finding Fibonacci by Keith Devlin

Updated 29 June 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Finding Fibonacci by Keith Devlin

  • Finding Fibonacci is Devlin’s compelling firsthand account of his 10-year quest to tell Fibonacci’s story

In 2000, Keith Devlin set out to research the life and legacy of the medieval mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, popularly known as Fibonacci, whose book ‘Liber abbaci’ has quite literally affected the lives of everyone alive today. Although he is most famous for the Fibonacci numbers — which, it so happens, he didn’t invent — Fibonacci’s greatest contribution was as an expositor of mathematical ideas at a level ordinary people could understand. 

In 1202, Liber abbaci — the ‘Book of Calculation’ — introduced modern arithmetic to the Western world. Yet Fibonacci was long forgotten after his death, and it was not until the 1960s that his true achievements were finally recognized.

Finding Fibonacci is Devlin’s compelling firsthand account of his 10-year quest to tell Fibonacci’s story, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Devlin, a math expositor himself, kept a diary of the undertaking, which he draws on here to describe the project’s highs and lows, its false starts and disappointments, the tragedies and unexpected turns, some hilarious episodes, and the occasional lucky breaks. 


What We Are Reading Today: Race Is About Politics Jean-Frederic Schaub

Updated 21 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Race Is About Politics Jean-Frederic Schaub

  • Schaub argues that to understand racism we must look at historical episodes of collective discrimination

Racial divisions have returned to the forefront of politics in the US and European societies, making it more important than ever to understand race and racism. 

But do we? In this original and provocative book, acclaimed historian Jean-Frédéric Schaub shows that we don’t— and that we need to rethink the widespread assumption that racism is essentially a modern form of discrimination based on skin color and other visible differences.

On the contrary, Schaub argues that to understand racism we must look at historical episodes of collective discrimination. Built around notions of identity and otherness, race is above all a political tool that must be understood in the context of its historical origins.

Although scholars agree that races don’t exist, they disagree about when these ideologies emerged. Drawing on historical research from the early modern period to today, Schaub makes the case that the key turning point in the political history of race in the West occurred not with the Atlantic slave trade and American slavery, as many historians have argued, but much earlier, in 15th-century Spain and Portugal, with the racialization of Christians of Jewish and Muslim origin.