James Joseph Sylvester: Life and Work in Letters
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In the folklore of mathematics, James Joseph Sylvester (1814-1897) is the eccentric, hot-tempered, sword-cane-wielding, nineteenth-century British Jew who, together with the taciturn Arthur Cayley, developed a theory and language of invariants that then died spectacularly in the 1890s as a result of David Hilberts groundbreaking, modern techniques. This, like all folklore, has some grounding in fact but owes much to fiction. The present volume brings together forthe first time 140 letters from Sylvesters correspondence in an effort to establish the true picture. It reveals - through the letters as well as through the detailed mathematical and historical commentary accompanying them - Sylvester the friend, man of principle, mathematician, poet, professor,scientific activist, social observer, traveller. It also provides a detailed look at Sylvesters thoughts and thought processes as it shows him acting in both personal and professional spheres over the course of his eighty-two year life. The Sylvester who emerges from this analysis - unlike the Sylvester of the folkloric caricature - offers deep insight into the development of the technical and social structures of mathematics.