When the US magazine Time announced its selection of the “twenty greatest thinkers and scientists of the twentieth century”, readers would hardly have been surprised to find that Albert Einstein was included. But how many readers, seeing the name Kurt Gödel on the list, would have had any idea who he was, or what he had done to deserve this accolade? Both these well-written books tell the story of the life of this strange and tormented man, and explain some of his accomplishments.
Born in 1906 to a German-speaking family in Brno (which is today in the Czech Republic), Gödel was educated at university in Vienna, at first studying physics but soon finding that mathematics was his true métier. He was particularly attracted by the rigour of mathematical methods and the certainty of mathematical truth, so the controversies over the validity of these methods that raged during the 1920s fascinated him.