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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Price: $40.00

Hardback 192 pp.
156 mm x 234 mm



Publication date:
March 2016

Imprint: OUP UK

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Quite Right

The Story of Mathematics, Measurement, and Money

Norman Biggs

Mathematics did not spring spontaneously into life, with rules set in stone for all time. Its story is closely linked with the problems of measurement and money that have often driven its progress. Quite Right explains how mathematical ideas have gradually emerged since prehistoric times, so that they pervade almost every aspect of life in the twenty-first century.

Many histories of mathematics focus on the activities of those for whom mathematics itself was the motivation. Professor Biggs adopts a wider viewpoint. Making use of new discoveries of artefacts and documents, he explains the part that mathematics has played in the human story, and what that tells us about the nature of mathematics. The story reveals the power and beauty of mathematical concepts, which often belie their utilitarian origins. The twin paradigms of logical justification and algorithmic calculation recur throughout the book. No other book tells the story of mathematics, measurement, and money in this way.

Includes secontions on:
* The origins of calculation in ancient and medieval times
* How mathematics provides answers that are right, and what that means
* The impact of trade and the use of money on the development of mathematical algorithms
* The use of mathematics for secure communications
* How money and information are linked in our electronic world

Quite Right is a fascinating story, suitable for anyone interested in the mathematical foundations of the world we live in.

Norman Biggs is Professor (Emeritus) of Mathematics at the London School of Economics. He is the author of 12 books, including a perennial best-selling book Discrete Mathematics (Oxford University Press). He has a special interest in measurement and was Chair of the International Society of Weights and Scales Collectors from 2009-14. He served as a Vice President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics in 2014 and is an active member of the British Numismatic Society.

Readership : General readers interested in the history of ideas, science, and monetary affairs, as well as students, mathematicians, historians and economists.


  • "This is a history of mathematics book with a difference. Instead of the usual chronological sequence of events, presented with mathematical hindsight (interpreting mathematical achievements from a modern point of view), this book tries to see things more from the context of the time - presenting the topics thematically rather than strictly chronologically, and including results and problems only when they fit into the themes - the level of exposition is first-rate, with a far greater fluency than most mathematical writers can attain - I am very happy to recommend it wholeheartedly."

    --Professor Robin Wilson, University of Oxford

1. The Unwritten Story
2. The Dawn of Civilization
3. From Tax and Trade to Theorems
4. The Age of Algorithms
5. The End of the Middle Ages
6. A New World of Mathematics
7. Mathematics Ascending
8. Taking a Chance
9. Modelling and Measuring
10. Mathematics and Money in the Age of Information
11. Can Mathematics Keep Us Safe

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Norman Biggs has been a university lecturer for over 50 years. After graduating from the University of Cambridge he became an Assistant Lecturer at Southampton University in 1963, and subsequently taught at Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics. Since 2006 he has been Emeritus Professor at the LSE and has continued to give lectures on information theory and the history of mathematics.

Making Sense - Margot Northey and Joan McKibbin

Special Features

  • Takes a broad view of the history of mathematics and debunks some traditional assumptions.
  • Links mathematical concepts and methods with the practical aspects of measurement and money.
  • Written clearly and simply, but without dumbing-down.
  • Can be used as a basis for courses in the history of mathematics.
  • Based on a lifetime of scholarship, with endnotes for readers who want to learn more.