If the life of any 20th century mathematician can be said to be a history of mathematics in his time, it is that of David Hilbert. To the enchanted young mathematicians and physicists who flocked to study with him in G ttingen before and between the World Wars, he seemed mathematics personified, the very air around him "scientifically electric." His remarkably prescient proposal in 1900 of twenty-three problems for the coming century set the course of much subsequent mathematics and remains a feat that no scientist in any field has been able to duplicate. When he died, Nature remarked that there was scarcely a mathematician in the world whose work did not derive from that of Hilbert.
Constance Reid's classic biography is a moving, nontechnical account of the passionate scientific life of this man -- from the early days in K nigsberg, when his revolutionary work was dismissed as "theology," to the golden years in G ttingen before Hitler came to power and within a few months destroyed the entire Hilbert school.
Constance Reid has been called "the foremost mathematical biographer of our time." Her many books include From Zero to Infinity, A Long Way from Euclid, The Search for E.T. Bell, and Neyman, from Life.
...books of the excellence of Mrs. Reid's are few.
The New Yorker)