The Poincaré Conjecture: In Search of the Shape of the Universe

By Donal O’Shea


In 1904, Henri Poincaré, a giant among mathematicians who transformed the fledging area of topology into a powerful field essential to all mathematics and physics, posed the Poincaré conjecture, a tantalising puzzle that speaks to the possible shape of the universe.

For more than a century, the conjecture resisted attempts to prove or disprove it. As Donal O’Shea reveals in his elegant narrative, Poincaré’s conjecture opens a door to the history of geometry, from the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece to the celebrated geniuses of the nineteenth-century German academy and, ultimately, to a fascinating array of personalities—Poincaré and Bernhard Riemann, William Thurston and Richard Hamilton, and the eccentric genius who appears to have solved it, Grigory Perelman. The solution seems certain to open up new corners of the mathematical universe.

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