Cover image for The Hilbert challenge
The Hilbert challenge
Gray, Jeremy, 1947-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xii, 315 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QA29.H5 G739 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



David Hilbert was arguably the leading mathematician of his generation. He was among the few mathematicians who could reshape mathematics, and was able to because he brought together an impressive technical power and mastery of detail with a vision of where the subject was going and how itshould get there. This was the unique combination which he brought to the setting of his famous 23 Problems. Few problems in mathematics have the status of those posed by David Hilbert in 1900. Mathematicians have made their reputations by solving individual ones such as Fermat's last theorem,and several remain unsolved including the Riemann hypotheses, which has eluded all the great minds of this century. A hundred years on, it is timely to take a fresh look at the problems, the man who set them, and the reasons for their lasting impact on the mathematics of the twentieth century. Inthis fascinating new book, Jeremy Gray and David Rowe consider what has made this the pre-eminent collection of problems in mathematics, what they tell us about what drives mathematicians, and the nature of reputation, influence and power in the world of modern mathematics. The book is written in aclear and lively manner and will appeal both to the general reader with an interest in mathematics and to mathematicians themselves.

Author Notes

Jeremy Gray is Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the Open University. His research interests lie in the history of the mathematics of the 19th and 20th centuries, and in the philosophy and social significance of mathematics. He is the author or editor of nine books, most recently The SymbolicUniverse: Geometry and Physics 1890-1930 (OUP 1999).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In 1910, at the International Congress of Mathematics in Paris, David Hilbert boldly set the research agenda for mathematicians of the era. Since Hilbert, no individual mathematician has attained the stature to accomplish such a feat. Hilbert's proposal was more than a list of 23 open questions; it was a snapshot of the mathematics of the day. Gray (Open Univ., UK) does a beautiful job of presenting the whole gamut of these complex ideas. Readers are given a guided tour of the mathematical landscape of the day. He presents a list of preeminent problems in mathematics, what we can know about what drives mathematicians, and the idea of reputation, influence, and power in the arena of modern mathematics. Gray's clear and concise presentation of the problems and their background will be appealing to both general readers and professional mathematicians. Highly recommended. R. L. Pour Emory and Henry College

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