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About the book
  • Published: 5 March 2015
  • ISBN: 9781448156573
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272
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Birth of a Theorem

A Mathematical Adventure




A passionate story of inspiration, obsession and partnership, as one of the greatest mathematical minds takes us on an imaginative journey through the discovery of a new theorem.

“This man could plainly do for mathematics what Brian Cox has done for physics” — Sunday Times

How does a genius see the world? Where and how does inspiration strike?

Cédric Villani takes us on a mesmerising adventure as he wrestles with the Boltzmann equation – a new theorem that will eventually win him the most coveted prize in mathematics and a place in the mathematical history books. Along the way he encounters obstacles and setbacks, losses of faith and even brushes with madness.

His story is one of courage and partnership, doubt and anxiety, elation and despair. Of ordinary family life blurring with the abstract world of mathematical physics, of theories and equations that haunt your dreams and seeking the elusive inspiration found only in a locked, darkened room.

Blending science with history, biography with myth, Villani conjures up an inimitable cast: the omnipresent Einstein, mad genius Kurt Godel, and Villani’s personal hero, John Nash.

Step inside the magical world of Cédric Villani…

  • Pub date: 5 March 2015
  • ISBN: 9781448156573
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

About the Author

Cédric Villani

Cédric Villani is a French mathematician who has received many international awards for his work including the Jacques Herbrand Prize, the Prize of the European Mathematical Society, the Fermat Prize and the Henri Poincaré Prize.

In 2010 he was awarded the Fields Medal, the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, for his work on Landau damping and the Boltzmann equation. Often called ‘the mathematicians’ Nobel Prize’, it is awarded every four years and is viewed by some as the highest honour a mathematician can achieve.

He is a professor at Lyon University and Director of the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris, working primarily on partial differential equations and mathematical physics.


Praise for Birth of a Theorem

“Combining poetry, music and formidable sleuthing, the charismatic Cédric Villani skilfully unfolds the complex yet wondrous world of mathematics. Birth of a Theorem inspires and entertains!”

Patti Smith

“Cédric Villani’s BIRTH OF A THEOREM is like no other book about maths: an unfiltered view into the daily life, and the soul, of a great mathematician, as he approaches and finally conquers a major result”

Jordan Ellenberg

“This man could plainly do for mathematics what Brian Cox has done for physics…. [Birth of a Theorem] is one of the most peculiar and entertaining science books you will ever read”

Brian Appleyard, Sunday Times

“Villani has written probably the most unlikely unputdownable thriller of the decade”

Richard Morrison, The Times

“A fine book from a brilliant man”

Rod Liddle, Sunday Times

“A delightful foray into an esoteric world, full of insights and necessary digressions”

New Scientist

“The most glamorous maths book ever”

The Bookseller

“Compellingly readable.... I am not aware of any other account that so lucidly describes the desolation felt by mathematicians when a solution simply refuses to be found.... But as Birth of a Theorem shows, the exhilaration when a breakthrough occurs is beyond compare”

Noel-Ann Bradshaw, Times Higher Education

“Birth of a Theorem is a remarkable book and I urge everyone to buy it”

Alexander Masters, Spectator

“Something of a hero in this world... Villani can do to a complex mathematical equation what Franz Liszt used to do to a piano keyboard, and as it happens he dresses like Franz Liszt as well”

Tom Sutcliffe, Start the Week & Today Programme


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