In 2010, the French mathematician Cédric Villani received the Fields Medal, the most coveted prize in mathematics, in recognition of a proof that he devised with his close collaborator Clément Mouhot to explain one of the most surprising theories in classical physics. Birth of a Theorem is Villani's own account of the years leading up to the award. It invites readers inside the mind of a great mathematician as he wrestles with the most important work of his career.
But you don't have to understand nonlinear Landau damping to love Birth of a Theorem. It doesn't simplify or overexplain; rather, it invites readers into a collaboration. Villani's diaries, e-mails, and musings enmesh you in the process of discovery. You join him in unproductive lulls and late-night breakthroughs. You're privy to dining-hall conversations at the world's greatest research institutions. Villani shares his favorite songs, his love of manga, and the imaginative stories he tells his children. In mathematics, as in any creative work, it is the thinker's whole life that propels discovery—and with Birth of a Theorem, Cédric Villani welcomes you into his.
"Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure is less about math than about mathematicians—how they live, how they work, and how they talk to one another."—Thomas Lin, The New Yorker
"By sharing conversations with colleagues, e-mail chains with his main collaborator, and anecdotes of insights that arrived via dreams and stray thoughts in airport waiting lounges, he illustrates the day-to-day process of devising a theorem, a task that took him two grueling and exhilarating years to complete. Rather than glossing over the mathematical intricacies, Villani includes many of the details and even the equations that went into a proof of his theorem, giving readers a vivid sense of the problems he ran into and the solutions he found, even if the subtleties are beyond many nonmathematicians."—Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American
"Villani pours you inside his mind and swirls you around, leaving you with nothing to hold on to and breathlessly wondering what you’ll encounter next."—Jacob Aron, New Scientist