The Professor and the Madman is a very interesting biography by Simon Winchester, who has written quite a few different types of books. The subtitle is "A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary." What is amazing to me was what an absorbing tale it is! Professor James Murray was the first editor of the incredibly massive undertaking of the first complete dictionary of the English Language, which took seventy years to finish, beginning in 1857. One person he got a great deal of assistance from was Dr. William Chester Minor, who was one of the thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotes showing the different nuances of a particular word's usage.
And now onto the book that I'm reading right now: The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, the story of Paul Erdős, a Hungarian mathematician who died in 1996 at the age of 83. Paul Hoffman's biography of Erdős tells the story of a man who traveled constantly, never had a home to speak of, lived out of a plastic bag, and never cared about anything except, well, numbers. (That first link takes you to Amazon in order to find out how to order it, and the second takes you to the Wikipedia link about Erdős himself.) I am not finished with this book, but my mind has already been opened in many ways to the mystery of numbers. I knew a little about prime numbers, not very much, but they never seemed all that interesting to me in the first place. I didn't realize that there are perfectly sane people who spend their entire lives thinking about them. (Okay, maybe not perfectly sane, but they are not locked up.) (smile)
For those of you who don't know what makes a number a prime number, integers like 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17 are numbers that are evenly divisible only by themselves and the number 1. Except for 2, all prime numbers are odd. They don't follow any particular order, and there is no known useful formula that yields all the prime numbers and no composites. At first, I wondered why anybody would even CARE, but then, while pondering their attraction, I suddenly remembered how incredibly fascinated I was years ago when I first learned about the Golden Mean or, more correctly, the Golden Ratio. I have been amazed at how many times I have seen this same pattern in nature: