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The French Mathematician

de Tom Petsinis

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1645129,494 (3.38)2
Novel, arising from the author's MA thesis, entitled 'A Fictional Biography of the French Mathematician Evariste Galois 1811-1832'. Depicts Evariste's life as a fervent republican in post-Revolutionary France, and his imprisonment at the age of 20. The author's other publications include 'Raising the Shadow' and ' The Drought', which won the Wal Cherry Playscript of the Year.… (més)
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Es mostren totes 5
A book about a notable French (in case you'd missed the title) mathematician. Written as a biography cum novel. Our eponymous hero often talks to his "biographer" in the hope that history will understand him correctly. I can't say whether the history behind the story about the French Revolution and those days of July are close to the truth but the scenes are painted very clearly. Other reviews say that there is no mathematics in the book but that isn't quite true, there is the odd mention of schoolboy maths dotted about and then bizarely seven pages before the end we learn about Galois' theory of elliptic integrals. This is not the most easily digested part of mathematics and one would wonder why the author put it in there; still, it doesn't detract from the flow for non-mathematical readers. Galois is not a likeable character but there is so but going on behind the scenes that we can cope with his peevish ways. ( )
  shushokan | Feb 14, 2013 |
I am sharing this review for posterity’s sake, this is the very first review I ever wrote and posted online. I blogged this review over ten years ago on December 13, 2001. I meant to post it here on its ten year anniversary but the holidays got in the way. Instead I am posting it today to kick off a new year with. This review is full of spoilers (seriously, it spoils just about the whole book) and is really more of a book report than a review but I can definitely see some of my beginnings in this and so I decided what better way to start a new year than with my start in book blogging. Enjoy!

“The French Mathematician” started out life as a project that was submitted for a Master of Arts degree entitled “A Fictional Biography of the French Mathematician Evariste Galois 1811-1832″. The author, Tom Petsinis set out to link the humanities and the sciences in a piece of writing that would tell the tragic tale of Evariste Galois in such a way so that writing majors might be able understand the type of mathematics that Evariste fathered and also the man himself. Petsinis is a professor who teaches mathematics at the University of Technology. And, he came across Evariste’s story while attending a lecture on Group Theory, a branch of mathematics based on Galois’s discoveries. The book is a well-written three-part biography with an excellent choice in writing style. It is very accurate for a book about whose subject there is such a small amount of information available on. Following is a summary and review of the various parts of “The French Mathematician” in the order that they appear in the book, for the most part.

There is no introduction, just acknowledgements of the support of various professors during the undertaking of this endeavor.
The first chapter is written as though it should be tacked on to the end, but is instead written at the beginning. The conclusion, on the other hand, simply gives what the fate of Evariste’s discoveries was to be.

Part one summarizes Evariste’s introduction and love affair with mathematics, his undying faith in the “x” and the power of that “x” to replace the cross and change the world to a place of order. Something Evariste believed would come about with the (French) Revolution. That the revolution would lead from chaos to mathematical precision. He believed in the power of mathematics.

Part two shows Evariste’s change of loyalties as he is swept up into the revolution. With the death of his father on his conscience and a need to prove himself and make himself great after being locked behind school walls during the outbreak of violence in the streets of Paris. He forsakes mathematics for the sword and the flame, wreaking buildings and joining various Republican organizations. He seems crazed at this point, thinking violence and a complete rebuilding of the French empire will be the only path to a Republican era.

Part three illustrates Evariste’s slow return to mathematics. He still clings to his Republican ideals but he begins slowly coming around to recognizing and nurturing his love of mathematics. He begins to write and submit works again and even holds a series of public speeches where he lays out his theories and proofs for his work. Throughout this section you watch as he is torn between mathematics and republican ideals. And he never really decides either way when he is arrested and imprisoned for six months for his part in the revolution. While in prison he becomes very sick so he is transferred to a hospital where he meets and falls in love with the Doctor’s daughter. Unfortunately she is only flirting with him and when her fiance (one of Evariste’s good friends) returns to Paris, his friend is forced to challenge Evariste to a duel.

I find that the writing is reminiscent of the style of writing popular during Evariste’s time (1811-1832). Prone to detail and more advanced diction then what is commonly known today, the book could almost pass for the diary/notebook the author “claims” it is. Unfortunately when referring to acts of a sexual nature the writer approaches the subject more blatantly than a writer of the nineteenth century would and uses far less subtltey. “The French Mathematician” is an excellent read that is recommended for English and Math majors alike. ( )
  exlibrisbitsy | Jan 2, 2012 |
I did not care for this book at all. I persisted reading in the hopes it would get better, but that never happened. It's not that it was poorly written, it wasn't, i just found the idea unoriginal and pretentious. I don't think there was enough of a storyline to keep my interest, it was very simple and left alot to be desired. ( )
  pandammonia | Apr 20, 2007 |
First, a word of warning for people who might read this novel hoping to also get some insights into mathematics - there is no mathematics in this novel.

'The French Mathematician' is a fictional memoir of Evariste Galois, the mathematical genius who made innovations in algebra before his untimely death in 1832. He founded a branch of mathematics that still bears his name, the study of Galois fields. They're in use everywhere today, from the nearest cell phone or DVD to the most distant interplanetary probe. But the book barely mentions his mathematical achievements and certainly doesn't describe them, so let's move along.

Galois tells his own story, addressing himself to an imaginary biographer who shadows him throughout the book, experiencing events as he does, all in present tense. While this type of narration can be off-putting, Petsinis utilizes it respectably and often with great drama. He describes how he sought solace in "the order and certainty of geometry" during the social and political upheaval in France at the time. The book chronicles his adolescence, his growth as a mathematician, his political awakening, and his death in a duel. Galois adeptly conveys to the reader information that the self-absorbed and oblivious protagonist himself misses.

Galois has all the makings of a great romantic figure. However, egotistical and insolent, he is difficult to like at the outset. It's a matter of historical fact that he was a mathematical prodigy, with important work published during his short life. It's also true that he died in a duel at age 21, after spending his final night organizing his mathematical notes for posterity. That, plus simply living through a time of intense political upheaval, let alone being involved in it, makes him a character quite able to capture the imagination.

The author is an Australian university mathematics lecturer. ( )
  Jawin | Jan 4, 2007 |
A one-time hero of my youth, Evariste Galois was a brilliant young French mathematician, who died tragically in a duel before his genius was recognised. Petsinis tells his story, as a first-person narrative. Sometimes a little heavy going, because, lets face it, Galois was pretty obnoxious (probably autistic, possibly schizophrenic). However, the story is interesting enough and the book well written, so it holds the attention to the last page. ( )
  pamplemousse | May 10, 2006 |
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Novel, arising from the author's MA thesis, entitled 'A Fictional Biography of the French Mathematician Evariste Galois 1811-1832'. Depicts Evariste's life as a fervent republican in post-Revolutionary France, and his imprisonment at the age of 20. The author's other publications include 'Raising the Shadow' and ' The Drought', which won the Wal Cherry Playscript of the Year.

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