Measuring the World

Measuring the World, Daniel Kehlmann, 2006

Measuring the World

A humorous yet quite profound meditation on science, life, and the men who live it. The book pokes fun at various national idiosyncrasies including German, French, Spanish, English, American, Prussian, and Russian. The author even includes a cute cameo meeting with a Buddhist monk.

The novel follows the fictionalized lives of two of the most eminent mathematician-scientists of the age of enlightenment in late 18th Century and early 19th Century Germany; Prussian Alexander Von Humboldt, famed explorer of South America, who followed the path of the Spaniard Aguirre the Mad; and German Carl Frederich Gauss author of the Disquisitions Arithmeticae the greatest work of mathematics since the time of Newton.

Hom bolt and Gauss

The central theme of the novel is attributed to Gauss;

“It was both odd and unjust… a real example of the pitiful arbitrariness of existence, that you were born into a particular time and held prisoner there whether you wanted it or not. It gave you an indecent advantage over the past and made you a clown vis-a-vis the future.”

A very clever and fast paced work; cramming much food for thought in a compact form.

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