The first major biography written for a general audience of the logician and mathematician whose Incompleteness Theorems helped launch a modern scientific revolution.
Nearly a hundred years after its publication, Kurt Gödel’s famous proof that every mathematical system must contain propositions that are true—yet never provable—continues to unsettle mathematics, philosophy, and computer science. Yet unlike Einstein, with whom he formed a warm and abiding friendship, Gödel has long escaped all but the most casual scrutiny of his life.
Stephen Budiansky’s Journey to the Edge of Reason is the first biography to fully draw upon Gödel’s voluminous letters and writings—including a never-before-transcribed shorthand diary of his most intimate thoughts—to explore Gödel’s profound intellectual friendships, his moving relationship with his mother, his troubled yet devoted marriage, and the debilitating bouts of paranoia that ultimately took his life. It also offers an intimate portrait of the scientific and intellectual circles in prewar Vienna, a haunting account of Gödel’s and Jewish intellectuals’ flight from Austria and Germany at the start of the Second World War, and a vivid re-creation of the early days of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, where Gödel and Einstein both worked.
Eloquent and insightful, Journey to the Edge of Reason is a fully realized portrait of the odd, brilliant, and tormented man who has been called the greatest logician since Aristotle, and illuminates the far-reaching implications of Gödel’s revolutionary ideas for philosophy, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and man’s place in the cosmos.
Historian Budiansky (Oliver Wendell Holmes) recaps the revolutionary work of mathematician and logician Kurt G del (1906 1978) in this probing biography. Budiansky details how G del showed the limits of logic in math with his work, and sailed past those limits in his delusions, outlining G del's theories on the most abstract of questions along the way. Most notable is G del's incompleteness theorem, which proved in the early 1930s that every mathematical system contains statements that are true yet not provable; this refuted fashionable "positivist" philosophical arguments that all truths could be found by empirical observation. Budiansky situates G del's work in a vivid panorama of his intellectual circle in Vienna between the wars, and explores the metaphysical conclusions G del drew from it a Platonist belief that ideas have an independent existence, and that there is a spiritual order to the universe. Budiansky's account of G del's later years at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study shows the logician's passion for unprovable truths souring into paranoia, including a persistent conviction that his food was poisoned (his wife sometimes had to taste it to demonstrate otherwise), and he ultimately starved himself to death. Budiansky keeps things accessible an appendix, for example, explains G del's proofs concisely and G del comes through as a brilliant though tragic figure in Budiansky's richly descriptive prose. This captivating portrait of a great if neurotic mind hits the mark . Photos.