Prefaces to the German

Editions

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

form

x2 - 6x + 1 = 0

as well as the "quadratic formula"

V ,

[v2

for the solution of the "general" quadratic equation

x2

+ px + q = 0.

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