How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World

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Infinitesimal (2014, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

English language

Published June 1, 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


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3 stars (1 review)

Explores "the epic battle over a mathematical concept that shook the old order and shaped the world as we know it. On August 10, 1632, five leaders of the Society of Jesus convened in a somber Roman palazzo to pass judgment on a simple idea: that a continuous line is composed of distinct and limitlessly tiny parts. The doctrine would become the foundation of calculus, but on that fateful day the judges ruled that it was forbidden. With the stroke of a pen they set off a war for the soul of the modern world"--

4 editions

Review of 'Infinitesimal' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Why would something mathematical and obscure be a big deal? Well, mathematics wasn't separate from reality say 500 or so years ago, and neither was religion. It's just like the problem with the scientifically calculated age of the earth not matching what's in the bible. And on top of that, religion wasn't separate from politics so what people believed had consequences for who held the power.

I had thought Newton and Leibniz invented infinitesimals but it turns out they were standing on the shoulders of giants. When those giants were young, the pope found their ideas heretical . Remember how Galileo was imprisoned for saying the earth traveled around the sun? What crazy times they were!

But then, we have a president who doesn't care for science all that much today.


  • Geometry, infinitesimal
  • Calculus, history
  • Mathematics, history
  • Science, history