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: Two Cheers for Higher Education by Steven Brint

Updated 13 August 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Two Cheers for Higher Education by Steven Brint

Crushing student debt, rapidly eroding state funding, faculty embroiled in speech controversies, a higher-education market disrupted by online competition—today’s headlines suggest that universities’ power to advance knowledge and shape American society is rapidly declining. But Steven Brint, a renowned analyst of academic institutions, has tracked numerous trends demonstrating their vitality. After a recent period that witnessed soaring student enrollment and ample research funding, universities, he argues, are in a better position than ever before.

Focusing on the years 1980–2015, Brint details the trajectory of American universities, which was influenced by evolving standards of disciplinary professionalism, market-driven partnerships (especially with scientific and technological innovators outside the academy), and the goal of social inclusion. 

Conflicts arose: Academic entrepreneurs, for example, flouted their campus responsibilities, and departments faced backlash over the hiring of scholars with nontraditional research agendas. Nevertheless, educators’ commitments to technological innovation and social diversity prevailed and created a new dynamism.

Brint documents these successes along with the challenges that result from rapid change. Today, knowledge-driven industries generate almost half of U.S. GDP, but divisions by educational level split the American political order. Students flock increasingly to fields connected to the power centers of American life and steer away from the liberal arts. And opportunities for economic mobility are expanding even as academic expectations decline.