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Measuring the World: 06/20/08
How does one measure the world? Daniel Kehlamnn's novel, Measuring the World offers diametrically opposed answers: one theoretical and one empirical. Representing the theory is mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and representing the experimental is explorer Alexander von Humboldt.
Kehlmann alternates his narrative between Gauss's life and Humboldt's exploration of South America and into New Spain (modern day Mexico). Both men wish to describe the world as elegantly as possible. For Gauss that means mathematics at the cost of basic social skills. For Humboldt it means jumping in head first to make every measurement even at the risk of personal injury.
Humboldt and Gauss seem like an unlikely pair of protagonists for a historical novel but Kehlmann's dry wit makes it work. By focusing on these two eccentric men he paints a portrait of the Enlightenment. Other "celebrities" from the era that make cameo appearances include Immanuel Kant, Louis Daguerre and Thomas Jefferson.
this sounds like a fascinating book. Thanks for the review. "
It's a book that will stick with me. Happy reading."