Number Words and Number Symbols: A Cultural History of Numbers

Dover Publications, 1992 - 480 páginas

'The historian of mathematics will find much to interest him here . . . while the casual reader is likely to be intrigued by the author's superior narrative ability." — Library Journal
This book is not only a fascinating introduction to the concept of number and to numbers themselves, hut a multifaceted linguistic and historical analysis of how numbers have developed and evolved in many different cultures. Drawing on evidence from history, literature, philosophy and ethnology, noted German scholar Karl Menninger. recounts the development of numbers both as they are spoken (and written as words) and as symbolic abstract numerals that can he readily manipulated and combined.
Despite the immense erudition the author brings to the topic, he maintains a light tone throughout, presenting much of the information in anecdotal form. Moreover, almost 300 illustrations (photographs and drawings) and many comparative language tables serve to enhance the text. The author begins with a lucid treatment of number sequence and number language, including the formation of number words in both Indo-European and non-IndoEuropean languages, hidden number words and the evolution of the number sequence. He then turns to written numerals and computations: finger counting, folk symbols for numbers, alphabetical numerals, the "German" Roman numerals, the abacus and more. The final section concerns the development of our modem decimal system, with its place notation and zero, based on the Indian number system, and its introduction to the West through the work of the Italian mathematician Fibonacci. The author concludes with a review of spoken numbers and number symbols in China and Japan.
"The book is especially good on early counting and calculating devices: primitive tally sticks, the knotted cords of ancient Peru, the elaborate finger symbols once used for numbers, counting boards with movable counters, and of course the abacus." — Martin Gardner, Book World

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Sobre o autor (1992)

The Menninger Clinic was founded in Topeka, Kansas in 1920 by Karl Menninger and his father Charles Frederick Menninger, and in 1926, they were joined by Karl's brother William. The Menninger Foundation, started in 1941, was established for the purpose of research, training, and public education in psychiatry. Karl Menninger was instrumental in founding the Winter Veterans' Administration Hospital, also in Topeka, at the close of World War II. It functioned not only as a hospital but also as the center of the largest psychiatric training program in the world. "The Crime of Punishment" attracted much attention (and some controversy) when it was published in 1968. A former Professor of Criminology and an officer of the American League to Abolish Capital Punishment, Menninger believed that there may be less violence today than there was 100 years ago but that it is now better reported. "We need criminals to identify ourselves with," he said, "to secretly envy and to stoutly punish." The "controlling" of crime by "deterrence," he said, makes "getting caught the unthinkable thing" for offenders (quoted in the New York Times). His plea is for humane, constructive treatment in place of vengeance and an end to public apathy. Menninger was born in Topeka and received his medical degree from Harvard University in 1917. He became interested in neurology and psychology while interning at Kansas City General Hospital. As one of the first physicians to complete psychoanalytic training in the United States and be aware of the critical need for psychiatrically trained personnel, he became administratively involved in various associations over the course of his lifetime. Internationally known as a pioneer in the treatment of mental illness, Menninger wrote with great clarity and human sympathy. His work has done much to dispel misunderstandings about mental illness and its treatment.

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