Announcing a New Biography for Children

Posted on: 10/11/2019 Back to all blog posts

Some of the best stories are true, and the story of David Blackwell, a brilliant African-American mathematician working before and during the Civil Rights era, is a fascinating tale of a man who spent his life solving mathematical problems that no one had yet solved. David Blackwell and the Deadliest Duel is the newest book in Robert Black’s Mathematical Lives series, and it follows the life of a young boy whose interest in math was sparked in a high school geometry class and who went on to become one of the most eminent mathematicians of his time.

Although David Blackwell worked in a number of mathematical fields, which is unusual among mathematicians, he is best known for his study of duels. If two people are given pistols with one bullet in them and are told to stand apart from each other and draw, is there any way to tell who would win the duel? Most people said no, but Blackwell thought there was a way to calculate a solution, and his work helped to lay the foundation of new fields such as information theory. The story is both one of math and one of a person, told in human terms with empathy and reverence for both Blackwell’s intelligence and his integrity.

One of our concerns at Royal Fireworks Press is to take mathematics beyond an operations approach and to help young people to see math in human terms in a historical context. Before the manipulation of numbers and the generation of equations, there were men and women trying to figure out what to do in specific situations, how to live their lives, and how to understand the world around them—and using math as a guide. Robert Black’s Mathematical Lives series is an ideal vehicle for providing this context.

The other books in the series, Pascal and Fermat: The Probability Pen Pals and Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams, will help to open up the world of mathematics for children as a world not just of numbers and symbols but of people working to move the world forward with ingenious solutions to real-life problems. This series is growing steadily; more books will be added as they are written. Don’t miss this chance to bring life into mathematics in a way that children will remember for the rest of their lives.

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