Dorothy Clark reviews Descartes’ Secret Notebook: A True Tale of Mathematics, Mysticism, and the Quest to Understand the Universe, by Amir D. Aczel, in the Boston Globe:
Amir D. Aczel, a professor of mathematical sciences at Bentley College in Waltham, has made a name for himself unwrapping the mysteries of mathematics in ways that enlighten the uninitiated. Mathematics is intriguing, and its history is full of intrigue, the stuff of secrets, spies, and cloak-and-dagger films.
The titles of Aczel’s previous nine nonfiction books attest to that — the international bestseller ”Fermat’s Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem” (1996) and ”The Mystery of the Aleph: Mathematics, Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity” (2000), among them.
His latest, ”Descartes’ Secret Notebook,” is a first-rate suspense story. It begins with an unsuspecting Aczel setting out to research the life and work of Renee Descartes when he finds the philosopher/mathematician kept a secret notebook. Aczel’s project turned into a detective adventure, revealing occult science, a secret brotherhood, political and religious controversies, a locked box, romance, obsession, a jealousy that may have had fatal consequences, and Descartes’s purloined skull.