Prefaces to the German
Math is like love; a simple idea, but it can get complicated.
— R. Drabek
Preface to the First German Edition
The subject of this book is the history of a classical problem in alge-
bra. We will recount the search for formulas describing the solutions
of polynomial equations in one unknown and how a succession of fail-
ures led finally to knowledge of a quite unexpected sort, and indeed,
of fundamental importance in mathematics.
Let us look briefly at the object that enticed many of the world's
best mathematicians over a period of three centuries. Perhaps, dear
reader, you recall from your school days quadratic equations of the
x2 - 6x + 1 = 0
as well as the "quadratic formula"
for the solution of the "general" quadratic equation
+ px + q = 0.