Pushing Limits: From West Point to Berkeley and Beyond challenges the myth that mathematicians lead dull and ascetic lives. It recounts the unique odyssey of a noted mathematician who overcame military hurdles at West Point, Army Ranger School and the Vietnam War, and survived many civilian escapades—hitchhiking in third-world hotspots, fending off sharks in Bahamian reefs, and camping deep behind the forbidding Iron Curtain. From ultra-conservative West Point in the ’60s to ultra-radical Berkeley in the ’70s, and ultimately to genteel Georgia Tech in the ’80s, this is the tale of an academic career as noteworthy for its offbeat adventures as for its teaching and research accomplishments. It brings to life the struggles and risks underlying mathematical research, the unparalleled thrill of making scientific breakthroughs, and the joy of sharing those discoveries around the world. Hill's book is packed with energy, humor, and suspense, both physical and intellectual. Anyone who is curious about how one maverick mathematician thinks, who wants to relive the zanier side of the ’60s and ’70s, who wants an armchair journey into the third world, or who seeks an unconventional view of several of society's iconic institutions, will be drawn to this book.
… captivating memoir reveals an intriguing character who is part Renaissance Man, part Huckleberry Finn. Fast-paced and often hilarious … provides some penetrating and impious insights into some of our more revered institutions.
—Rick Atkinson, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, author of The Long Gray Line
Ted Hill is unique in having both a very exciting internal mathematical life … and an action-filled, adventurous, external life. … his natural gift, very rare for mathematicians, of story-telling, [makes this] a page-turner.
—Doron Zeilberger, Rutgers University, winner of MAA Ford Prize, AMS Steele Prize, and ICA Euler Medal
Thoughtful, funny, evocative, Ted Hill takes us through a life well-lived … an intensely personal story that will appeal to every profession—and to every generation!
—General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Commander
Ted Hill is an original. Mathematician. Adventurer. Activist. His life has seen both his mind and body tested to extremes … insightful, entertaining and—in a very good way—unlike any other book you will ever read by a mathematician.
—Alex Bellos, author of Here's Looking at Euclid and The Grapes of Math
General readers interested in mathematics careers and education, adventure travel, military life, the 1960s-70s, and how all this combines together; mathematics educators, students, and graduates, especially those of West Point, Stanford, and Berkeley.
A fascinating journey from pure adventurism...through West Point and the Vietnam War to the highest intellectual accomplishments. At the center is a beautiful portrayal of the tedious, but highly rewarding road from graduate school to becoming a substantial research mathematician. A joy to read.
-- David Gilat, Professor Emeritus, School of Mathematical Sciences, Tel Aviv University
It is well known that math is boring and that mathematicians are dull individuals lacking both social skills and common sense. Wait a minute.Ted Hill might change your mind. His almost mathemagical life experiences are like a platter of petit fours: sample one and you'd want a second, then a third and soon you're addicted.
-- Christian Houdré , Professor of Mathematics, Georgia Institute of Technology
I loved the book. Extraordinary job of making scenes come alive...with great energy and really good dialog.
-- David Ignatius, Columnist and Associate Editor at The Washington Post, author of Body of Lies
Most people think that mathematics has nothing to do with daily life. These folks need to spend a few hours with Ted. He sees life through a mathematical lens and brings excitement and adventure to everything he comes in contact with.
-- Martin Jones, Professor of Mathematics, College of Charleston
Spell-binding accounts of events actually experienced... Ted Hill...challeng(es) normative value systems in startling ways but of impish consequences.
-- Michael Klass, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, U.C. Berkeley
The first adjectives...when thinking about a mathematician...are likely to [be] words such as: eccentric, reclusive, nerd. Ted Hill amply demonstrates that, at least in his case, nothing could be further from the truth, as he offers us a glimpse of the fascinating world of an accomplished mathematician.
-- Mario Livio, author of The Golden Ratio and the upcoming Why?
Ted Hill's fascinating and raucous memoir...is proof that life in the exotic world of theoretical mathematics doesn't preclude and in fact benefits from passionate engagement with the real world.
-- Jack Miller, Physicist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Ted Hill is the Indiana Jones of mathematics. A West Point graduate, [he] served in Vietnam, swam with sharks in the Caribbean, and has resolutely defied unreasoned authority. With this same love of adventure, he has confronted the sublime challenges of mathematics. Whether it's discovering intellectual treasures or careening down jungle trails, this real life Dr. Jones has done it all.
-- Michael Monticino, Professor of Mathematics and Special Assistant to the President, U. North Texas
Straddling the military and the mathematical worlds, Ted Hill's life is full of contradictions, daring exploits and accomplishments, and outright fun and adventure. A fascinating read...
-- John Allen Paulos, Professor of Mathematics at Temple University, author of Innumeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper
This [memoir]...will thrill and perplex the reader, by the seamless mixture of mind-adventure and body adventure, and for the unconventional academic path traveled by its author. Hill perpetually runs into trouble with authorities...[but] befriends mathematicians all over the world... With verve and nerve, Hill writes the story of...a life that touches on the highly exceptional, rich in friendship, thought, and humane warmth.
-- Mircea Pitici, Cornell University, Editor of Best Writing on Mathematics
Ted Hill has led an exciting life, and his vivid stories shed light on some remarkable times and places. Mathematicians will especially appreciate his chapters on graduate school and his early professional life; he brings our shared experiences to life in a way that only an outstanding writer can do.
-- Walter Stromquist, past Editor of Mathematics Magazine
Ted Hill paints vivid pictures of his life in the military and academia. From West Point and Vietnam to Berkeley and Georgia Tech, his trials and hair-raising adventures are highly entertaining and informative.
-- Bill Sudderth, Professor Emeritus of Statistics, U. of Minnesota
Ted Hill took a very unusual route to...mathematics: a military start and a stint in Vietnam, followed by a first-rate degree at one of the top programs in the world (Berkeley) and a highly successful career. This path, in addition to providing him with many adventures, has allowed him to look at thing(s) a little differently than most mathematicians...
-- Stan Wagon, Macalester College, winner of MAA Ford Prize, author of The Banach-Tarski Paradox