Mathematical Lives: Biographies of Mathematicians by Robert Black

Mathematical Lives: Biographies of Mathematicians by Robert Black Series Cover

The men and women who shaped mathematics were interesting people grappling with real problems, and their approaches to those problems on occasion led to new fields and new ways of thinking about math. The excitement and struggles of these people are lost in the ways we teach children about math. Here is a type of problem, we teach, and this is the formula to solve it. In that sort of teaching, the humanity that lies behind the math is obscured.

The Mathematical Lives series is designed to help children to see the people who developed math and show why they shaped the solutions we take for granted today. In so doing, the entire field of mathematics becomes more comprehensible and meaningful.

"Royal Fireworks Press has published three simply outstanding biographically-oriented books by Robert Black in his Mathematical Lives series, which are unreservedly recommended additions to both school and community library collections for young readers." – Midwest Book Review

Robert Black is also the author of the Mathematical Nights series, a trilogy of fiction books for middle schoolers about a girl who must solve the math problems of an array of wacky, otherworldly creatures.

The men and women who shaped mathematics were interesting people grappling with real problems, and their approaches to those problems on occasion led to new fields and new ways of thinking about math. The excitement and struggles of these people are lost in the ways we teach students about math. Here is a type of problem, we teach, and this is the formula to solve it. In that sort of teaching, the humanity that lies behind the math is obscured.

The Mathematical Lives series is designed to help students to see the people who developed math and show why they shaped the solutions we take for granted today. In so doing, the entire field of mathematics becomes more comprehensible and meaningful.

"Royal Fireworks Press has published three simply outstanding biographically-oriented books by Robert Black in his Mathematical Lives series, which are unreservedly recommended additions to both school and community library collections for young readers." – Midwest Book Review

Robert Black is also the author of the Mathematical Nights series, a trilogy of fiction books for middle schoolers about a girl who must solve the math problems of an array of wacky, otherworldly creatures.

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Pascal and Fermat: The Probability Pen Pals

Author: Black, Robert

Subjects: History; Mathematics

Age: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Grade: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Pages: 106

ISBN: 978-0-89824-706-0

Order code: 7060

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Pascal and Fermat: The Probability Pen Pals Cover

In the early 1650s, a French aristocrat posed a gambling question to Blaise Pascal, one of the most brilliant scientists and philosophers of the time. But even Pascal needed help. The idea of seeing the future—even seeing a possible future—was so alien that he needed to discuss it with someone else. So he contacted his countryman Pierre de Fermat, arguably the greatest “amateur” mathematician of all time. During the course of several months, the two men exchanged a series of letters that laid the foundation of what we know as probability theory. In those letters, they changed the world.

In the early 1650s, a French aristocrat posed a gambling question to Blaise Pascal, one of the most brilliant scientists and philosophers of the time. But even Pascal needed help. The idea of seeing the future—even seeing a possible future—was so alien that he needed to discuss it with someone else. So he contacted his countryman Pierre de Fermat, arguably the greatest “amateur” mathematician of all time. During the course of several months, the two men exchanged a series of letters that laid the foundation of what we know as probability theory. In those letters, they changed the world.

Pascal and Fermat: The Probability Pen Pals Cover

Pascal and Fermat Sample Pages:

Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams

Author: Black, Robert

Subjects: History; Mathematics; Biology

Age: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Grade: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Pages: 124

ISBN: 978-0-89824-705-3

Order code: 7053

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams Cover

Florence Nightingale is known for her revolutionary impact on medicine. She transformed the hospital system and dramatically reduced the death rate from infection and disease. She reformed the nursing profession from a job fitted only for women of low repute to one that employed dedicated, educated women who wanted a career in nursing. She was known internationally as the woman with the lantern who visited sick and wounded soldiers at night to soothe and comfort them.

But what most people don't know is that Nightingale's influence went far beyond the medical profession. In an effort to make the results of her research on disease and death rates accessible to people, she began creating diagrams—visual tools to allow people to see beyond the simple numbers they were reading in order to understand the true nature of what those numbers conveyed. She invented an array of circular diagrams and bar charts, many of which are still in use today or which have evolved to become commonplace to our modern eyes. The "Lady with the Lamp" can also be credited as the "Lady with the Diagrams" for her work in pioneering a way for mathematicians and statisticians to present bare facts as intelligible truths.

"Part of the Royal Fireworks Press biographical series Mathematical Lives, Robert Black's Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams is exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to personal, school, and community library collections. Also very highly recommended in this simply outstanding series is Robert Black's Pascal and Fermat: The Probability Pen Pals."  – Susan Bethany, Revewers Bookwatch

"...impressively informative and unreservedly recommended..." – Midwest Book Review

"This biography reads like a novel of the 18th century and gives insight into the precedents that impact us, from Excel charts to epidemiology." – Deb McQuilkin, DNP, Clinical Associate Professor, University of South Carolina College of Nursing

Florence Nightingale is known for her revolutionary impact on medicine. She transformed the hospital system and dramatically reduced the death rate from infection and disease. She reformed the nursing profession from a job fitted only for women of low repute to one that employed dedicated, educated women who wanted a career in nursing. She was known internationally as the woman with the lantern who visited sick and wounded soldiers at night to soothe and comfort them.

But what most people don't know is that Nightingale's influence went far beyond the medical profession. In an effort to make the results of her research on disease and death rates accessible to people, she began creating diagrams—visual tools to allow people to see beyond the simple numbers they were reading in order to understand the true nature of what those numbers conveyed. She invented an array of circular diagrams and bar charts, many of which are still in use today or which have evolved to become commonplace to our modern eyes. The "Lady with the Lamp" can also be credited as the "Lady with the Diagrams" for her work in pioneering a way for mathematicians and statisticians to present bare facts as intelligible truths.

"Part of the Royal Fireworks Press biographical series Mathematical Lives, Robert Black's Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams is exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to personal, school, and community library collections. Also very highly recommended in this simply outstanding series is Robert Black's Pascal and Fermat: The Probability Pen Pals."  – Susan Bethany, Revewers Bookwatch

"...impressively informative and unreservedly recommended..." – Midwest Book Review

"This biography reads like a novel of the 18th century and gives insight into the precedents that impact us, from Excel charts to epidemiology." – Deb McQuilkin, DNP, Clinical Associate Professor, University of South Carolina College of Nursing

Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams Cover

Florence Nightingale Sample Pages:

David Blackwell and the Deadliest Duel

Author: Black, Robert

Subjects: History; Mathematics; Statistics; Information Theory

Age: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Grade: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Pages: 116

ISBN: 978-0-88092-807-6

Order code: 8076

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

David Blackwell and the Deadliest Duel Cover

David Blackwell's interest in math was sparked in a high school geometry class, and he spent the rest of his life pursuing solutions to mathematical problems, but not just in geometry. Blackwell's career is particularly interesting because he worked in an array of subjects, instead of delving deeply into a single one, as is more typical of eminent mathematicians. He would read the work of others and then investigate different cases or applications of theorems that he thought hadn’t been explored thoroughly enough. As a result, his influence stretched across a wide range of subjects, although it all centered on the basic concepts of mathematical and statistical decision-making.

Much of Blackwell's work stemmed from his study of duels. If two people are given guns with one bullet in them and are told to stand apart from each other—Old West style—draw, and fire, is there any way to tell who would emerge as the winner? Blackwell thought it was possible, and he worked on the problem until he had an answer as to what the outcome was likely to be, given a variety of conditions. That sort of thinking infused all of his work, and today he is regarded as a brilliant mathematician whose contributions helped to lay the foundation for new fields such as information theory. That he was an African-American working in the years before and during the Civil Rights Movement makes his accomplishments that much more remarkable.

David Blackwell's interest in math was sparked in a high school geometry class, and he spent the rest of his life pursuing solutions to mathematical problems, but not just in geometry. Blackwell's career is particularly interesting because he worked in an array of subjects, instead of delving deeply into a single one, as is more typical of eminent mathematicians. He would read the work of others and then investigate different cases or applications of theorems that he thought hadn’t been explored thoroughly enough. As a result, his influence stretched across a wide range of subjects, although it all centered on the basic concepts of mathematical and statistical decision-making.

Much of Blackwell's work stemmed from his study of duels. If two people are given guns with one bullet in them and are told to stand apart from each other—Old West style—draw, and fire, is there any way to tell who would emerge as the winner? Blackwell thought it was possible, and he worked on the problem until he had an answer as to what the outcome was likely to be, given a variety of conditions. That sort of thinking infused all of his work, and today he is regarded as a brilliant mathematician whose contributions helped to lay the foundation for new fields such as information theory. That he was an African-American working in the years before and during the Civil Rights Movement makes his accomplishments that much more remarkable.

David Blackwell and the Deadliest Duel Cover

David Blackwell Sample Pages:

Ada Lovelace Programming the Future

Author: Black, Robert

Subjects: History; Mathematics; Computers

Age: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Grade: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Pages: 120

ISBN: 978-0-88092-303-3

Order code: 3033

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Ada Lovelace Programming the Future Cover

In 1822, Englishman Charles Babbage designed a mechanical device for performing calculations that he called the "Difference Engine." For years the British government poured money into the creation of the device, but it was never what Babbage wanted it to be. He was forever revising it based on new ideas and inspirations, and ultimately he designed a new machine that would be even more powerful, which he called the "Analytical Engine." It would be, in effect, the first computer.

The problem was that Babbage had no way to build his machine, but his idea caught the attention of several scientists and other men of influence. One, from Italy, wrote about the Analytical Engine in detail, and a London editor wanted that information translated. For that he turned to a countess named Ada Lovelace. Lovelace had known Babbage since the dawn of his Difference Engine, and she had worked hard to study advanced mathematics at levels that were rare for women during that era. She understood the Analytical Engine, so she not only translated the information about it; she added detailed notes to the translation that explained the machine in plainer language. And, more importantly, she went even further than Babbage had and expressed some breakthrough ideas that are at the foundations of modern computer science. 

Unfortunately, Babbage never built his Analytical Engine, but about a hundred years later, women picked up the torch that Lovelace had lit and carried it forward into computer science in ways that Babbage and Lovelace could hardly have envisioned. The women who worked on the first computers for the U.S. government during World War II and soon after were the first computer programmers and the first software engineers. The computer technology that we enjoy today is in large part the result of their efforts, and it is built on Ada Lovelace's digital legacy.

In 1822, Englishman Charles Babbage designed a mechanical device for performing calculations that he called the "Difference Engine." For years the British government poured money into the creation of the device, but it was never what Babbage wanted it to be. He was forever revising it based on new ideas and inspirations, and ultimately he designed a new machine that would be even more powerful, which he called the "Analytical Engine." It would be, in effect, the first computer.

The problem was that Babbage had no way to build his machine, but his idea caught the attention of several scientists and other men of influence. One, from Italy, wrote about the Analytical Engine in detail, and a London editor wanted that information translated. For that he turned to a countess named Ada Lovelace. Lovelace had known Babbage since the dawn of his Difference Engine, and she had worked hard to study advanced mathematics at levels that were rare for women during that era. She understood the Analytical Engine, so she not only translated the information about it; she added detailed notes to the translation that explained the machine in plainer language. And, more importantly, she went even further than Babbage had and expressed some breakthrough ideas that are at the foundations of modern computer science. 

Unfortunately, Babbage never built his Analytical Engine, but about a hundred years later, women picked up the torch that Lovelace had lit and carried it forward into computer science in ways that Babbage and Lovelace could hardly have envisioned. The women who worked on the first computers for the U.S. government during World War II and soon after were the first computer programmers and the first software engineers. The computer technology that we enjoy today is in large part the result of their efforts, and it is built on Ada Lovelace's digital legacy.

Ada Lovelace Programming the Future Cover

Ada Lovelace Sample Pages:

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