New, 1998, 257 pages.
*At the very beginning of his book on i, the square root of minus one, Paul Nahin warns his readers: "An Imaginary Tale has a very strong historical component to it, but that does not mean it is a mathematical lightweight. But don't read too much into that either. It is *not* a scholarly tome meant to be read only by some mythical, elite group.... Large chunks of this book can, in fact, be read and understood by a high school senior who has paid attention to his or her teachers in the standard fare of pre-college courses. Still, it will be most accessible to the million or so who each year complete a college course in freshman calculus.... But when I need to do an integral, let me assure you I have not fallen to my knees in dumbstruck horror. And neither should you."
Nahin is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire; he has also written a number of science fiction short stories. His style is far more lively and humane than a mathematics textbook while covering much of the same ground. Readers will end up with a good sense for the mathematics of i and for its applications in physics and engineering. --Mary Ellen Curtin
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