**Spectrum**

Volume: 73;
2012;
279 pp;
Hardcover

Print ISBN: 978-0-88385-577-5

Product Code: SPEC/73

List Price: $43.00

AMS Member Price: $32.25

MAA Member Price: $32.25

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**Electronic ISBN: 978-1-61444-510-4
Product Code: SPEC/73.E**

List Price: $43.00

AMS Member Price: $32.25

MAA Member Price: $32.25

# Sophie’s Diary: A Mathematical Novel: Second Edition

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*Dora Musielak*

MAA Press: An Imprint of the American Mathematical Society

Sophie Germain overcame gender stigmas and a lack of formal education
to prove that for all prime exponents less than 100 Case I of Fermat's
Last Theorem holds. Hidden behind a man's name, her brilliance as
mathematician was first discovered by three of the greatest scholars
of the eighteenth century, Lagrange, Gauss, and Legendre.

In Sophie's Diary, Germain comes to life through
a fictionalized journal that intertwines mathematics with historical
descriptions of the brutal events that took place in Paris between
1789 and 1793. This format provides a plausible perspective of how a
young Sophie could have learned mathematics on her own—both fascinated
by numbers and eager to master tough subjects without a teacher's
guidance. Her passion for mathematics is integrated into her personal
life as an escape from societal outrage. Sophie's Diary is suitable
for a variety of readers—both young and old, mathematicians and
novices—who will be inspired and enlightened on a field of study made
easy, as told through the intellectual and personal struggles of an
exceptional young woman.

#### Reviews & Endorsements

While this is a work of fiction, literally every entry in the "diary" of Sophie Germain could plausibly be true. Germain was a woman that grew up in France in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when the social norms were that women did not engage in intellectual pursuits. These norms were strongly enforced; it was very difficult for a woman to get any kind of an education in mathematics or any other science. A strong-willed girl, Sophie was determined to learn mathematics and she did so on her won from the reference materials she was able to acquire and later via correspondence with well-known mathematicians. Her parents meant well in trying to guide her down the "normal" path of a society woman, but Sophie persisted in her pursuit of mathematical knowledge. The time of Sophie's youth was one of great turmoil in France, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the aristocracy and clergy led to the violent explosion known as the French Revolution, when terror reigned supreme. People were executed as enemies of the state for petty transgressions; even scientists were not immune from a fate ending at the guillotine. The entries of this diary, which end in 1794, are a combination of Sophie describing her discoveries and difficulties while learning mathematics as well as the events of the revolution taking place all around her. Even though mathematics by itself is free of politics and other human foibles, it always operates within the historical context, if only because the people that do it are humans operating in a society. This is a great novel; it is accurate enough to be a reference in a history of math course, which is highly unusual for a work of fiction.

-- Charles Ashbacher, Journal of Recreational Mathematics

Reading a diary is such a verboten act! But reading Sophie's Diary should not be. Dora Musielak has given us a delightful book of imaginings of mathematician Sophie Germain's mind during the late 18th century. As we're told in the author's note, she was inspired to write this book because there is no record of how Germain managed to learn enough mathematics to make the substantial contribution to Fermat's Last Theorem that she did. Learning mathematics is, for most of us, hard work. But learning mathematics is not something we have to do alone. Nor is it something that society views as improper. (Perhaps odd, but not improper!). For Germain, a young girl during the French Revolution, however, education of any academic sort was considered inappropriate. Young ladies of her wealthy social class learned to sew and play piano, and those less well-off learned to clean houses. Women certainly didn't learn mathematics! Musielak's book is written entirely in diary form, beginning when Sophie is 13. This coincides with the French Revolution, and the author takes great effort to intertwine historical events. The inclusion of history enhances the book substantially. The author does a nice job of interspersing the history with the mathematics, and the interplay makes the novel more believable as a diary and helps keep the reader's attention. Mathematically, the book begins with definitions of rational, irrational and prime, and musings on how to solve linear and quadratic equations. Included along the way are proofs of the irrationality of the square root of 2 and the infinitude of primes, common enough topics in more popular books. Musielak goes beyond this, however, and discusses topics such as transcendental numbers, Mersenne primes, and infinite series. By the end of the novel, she is writing of differential and integral calculus. She does a nice job of spiraling the topic of prime numbers, returning throughout the book at more and more depth as Sophie's mathematical maturity increases.

-- John J. Watkins, Mathematical Reviews

Sophie's Diary is a mathematical novel inspired by the life of the French mathematician Sophie Germain (1776-1831), the first woman to win the Prix de Mathematiques awarded by the Institute de France. This fictional diary presents a plausible explanation of how a young Parisian girl could have learned mathematics between 1789 and 1794, during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Through a young girl's journal, the author weaves together Sophie's process of learning advanced mathematics on her own while growing up during this extremely volatile period of France's history. The book covers a basic history of mathematics from ancient times through the early 1800s. Examples of Sophie's learning included in the journal cover topics from basic algebra through differential equations, number theory, and elasticity. As such, this novel is probably best suited for capable high school students. The novel also addresses the struggles of a woman who wishes to be a mathematical scholar during a time when such education was denied to women. Sophie's Diary is an inspirational story that portrays the learning of complex mathematics as "exhilarating" and related to the natural world around us. I highly recommend this book.

-- Christine Hebert, Mathematics Teacher