An Imaginary Tale: The Story of i

| May 28, 2012 | 2 Comments

One of the most mysterious concepts in mathematics is the square root of -1 usually noted i. Even a primary school students know that if you square either a positive or a negative number the result will come out to be positive. But what about a negative number? It seems that there’s no way to obtain a result for a square root of -1. So why not create a number, which is equal to the square root of -1? Well that was what some crazy mathematicians thought and what do you know, this number called i is highly useful and is now used in countless fields of mathematics and physics. Now only this mysterious number, which is lost between existence and non-existence, is useful, but it also has a very interesting history behind it. And that’s exactly what the “Imaginary Tale: The Story of i” is all about.


Basic Info

  • Hardcover: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (August 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691027951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691027951
  • Average Amazon Customer Review:3.7 out of 5 stars (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


About the Author

Paul Nahin was born in California, and did all his schooling there (Brea-Olinda High 1958). He continued his studies in the chosen field of electrical engineering in Stanford (Bs.) 1962 and Caltech (Ms.) 1963. Paul Nahin has studied for a PhD. as a Howard Hughes Staff Doctoral Fellow in UC/Irvine back in 1972. He worked as a digital logic designer and radar systems engineer in the Southern California aerospace industry until 1971 as well as at Harvey Mudd College as a lecturer. Besides his academic work, Paul Nahin is also a popular science writer. Some of his books include: Dr. Euler’s Fabulous Formula (2011), Number Crunching (2011) and Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics (1998).


About the Book

At the very beginning of his book on 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. So it is not a scholarly tome meant to be read only by some mythical, elite group.”

So this book is about the mysteries and wonders associated with the imaginary numbers and their history. Paul Nahin demonstrates his vast knowledge of both mathematics and its history in this book. And, knowing the complexity of the whole concept of imaginary numbers, the author does a solid job of explaining the idea of imaginary numbers for the readers.

As the author himself mentioned in the foreword, the book has a lot to do with the history of mathematics, but at the same time is quite   complex mathematically. As a lot of readers mentioned in the reviews, the book is mostly recommended for experts or science/mathematics students, as it is full of equations. Besides that, the book is really solid and does its job well. It gives an interesting overview of the subject, which should be highly appreciated by readers interested in mathematics and the history of it.



  1. More books by Paul Nahin
  2. Paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon:




Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Math Books

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ashraf says:

    Root of -1 is the most complicate case in mathematics world. In this post, there is many thing that I never knew before. Thanks to make me know about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *