Agnes Scott College

Edna E. Kramer

The Main Stream of Mathematics
Oxford University Press, New York, 1951


Preface (Excerpts)

Events in August 1945 and thereafter have revealed that mathematics holds one of the most important keys to the future of the human race. The common man is curious to know how and why the science of numbers plays this basic role. The Main Street of Mathematics attempts to appease this curiosity.

Answers to questions like the following are simple and will be found in this volume:

We shall, of course, discuss ordinary arithmetic and algebra. our objective, however, will be to examine their relationship to other systems of numeration and symbolism, systems that have some factors in common with the everyday species but diverse in ways rendering them more suitable for certain scientific applications. Geometry will be considered at first in relation to art and the inspiration of art—nature itself—leaving the notion of pure geometry for a later chapter. Trigonometry as a tool can stand some de-emphasis in favor of its characteristic of mirroring the eternal periodicity of nature. Statistics is no longer glorified bookkeeping but a means of testing hypotheses, controlling industrial processes, and describing the nature of matter. Calculus concepts, freed of manipulative detail, are within the reach of all.

Relativity is a natural climax to mathematical discussions. Today a comprehensible outline of this subject can be offered to the layman—yet less than fifty years ago it had been mastered by only a handful of savants. The man in the street can even gain some understanding of the objectives of Einstein's new unified field theory. finally, we must touch on a major issue of mathematical philosophy—the infinite, with its intriguing paradoxes and its inevitable association with the most profound problems of modern mathematics.


  1. Mathematical Genesis
  2. Nature, Art, and Geometry
  3. The Binding Energy of Thought
  4. The Mathematics of the Forbidden
  5. The Human Equation
  6. Ascent Without Rockets
  7. The Father of Modern Mathematics and His Legacy
  8. Science and the Sweepstakes
  9. The Distaff Side
  10. A World in Flux
  11. From Alice to Einstein
  12. The Realm of Relativity
  13. The Paradise of Mathematicians