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Sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. Certainly the mariners in Amalfi in the twelfth century were. Here the compass was first invented and used in navigation, eventually helping to make Italians the world's greatest sailors.
But the story of the compass is shrouded in mystery and myth. It begins in ancient China around the birth of Christ. A mysterious lodestone whose powers affected metal was known to the Emperor. This piece of metal suspended in water always pointed north and was put to excellent use in feng shui, the Chinese art of finding the right location. However, it was the Italians who unleashed the compass's formidable powers on ships at sea.
Throughout the ancient world, sailors navigated by wind, and stars, and the routes of migrating birds, but bad weather and winter storms impeded their travels. When the compass migrated to Italy, the modern world began: Venice, trade with the East, the Age of Discovery. The compass made it all possible, and this is its fascinating story.
Praise for Fermat's Last Theorem
This is a captivating volume. Equally important is the sense of awe that Mr. Aczel imparts for the hidden, mystical harmonies of numbers, and for that sense of awe alone, his slender volume is well worth the effort."-The New York Times
While avoiding technical details, Aczel maps the strange, beautiful byways of modern mathematical thought in ways the layperson can grasp."-Publishers Weekly
For more than three centuries, Fermat's Last Theorem was the most famous unsolved problem in mathematics; here's the story of how it was solved."-Kirkus Reviews