Godel: A Life of Logic

Godel: A Life of Logic

Godel: A Life of Logic

Godel: A Life of Logic

Synopsis

Kurt Godel was an intellectual giant. His Incompleteness Theorem turned not only mathematics but also the whole world of science and philosophy on its head. Equally legendary were Godel's eccentricities, his close friendship with Albert Einstein, and his paranoid fear of germs that eventually led to his death from self-starvation. Now, in the first popular biography of this strange and brilliant thinker, John Casti and Werner DePauli bring the legend to life. After describing his childhood in the Moravian capital of Brno, the authors trace the arc of Godel's remarkable career, from the famed Vienna Circle, where philosophers and scientists debated notions of truth, to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived and worked until his death in 1978. In the process, they shed light on Godel's contributions to mathematics, philosophy, computer science, artificial intelligence -- even cosmology -- in an entertaining and accessible way.

Excerpt

As part of its millennium celebration, Time magazine published a list of the 100 greatest people of the 20th century. On this list was their choice of the greatest mathematician--Kurt Gödel. Most likely, if you were to randomly select 100 people and ask them, "Do you know who Kurt Gödel is?", it's almost certain you'd receive not a single positive response. That would definitely not be true if you asked about the greatest physicist of the 20th century (Einstein) or the greatest chemist (Linus Pauling?) or the greatest writer (??). This short volume is an attempt to bring Gödel's work and life to the attention of a broad audience, and thus to at least partially bring his magnificent achievements out into the mainstream of modern intellectual discourse.

This project had its beginning in 1986 with a television special on Gödel's life produced for the Austrian national television network by one of us (WDP) together with Peter Weibel. Following the screening of that program, a small book was published in German based on the script of that show. Initially, we thought to simply translate that book into English, slightly embellished with a bit more detail on Gödel's life and more references for the English reader. But it soon became evident that a more substantive volume was needed . . .

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