The Maths of Life and Death

We review the sevnth of this year’s nominees for the Book of the Year


Kit Yates is a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Bath, who works in mathematical biology. His first book, The Maths of Life and Death (Amazon UK, Waterstones), is all about the maths of life and death.


The Maths of Life and Death takes the reader on a tour of seven important areas of mathematics that underpin life and death. Many of the ideas discussed are related to medical and biological applications of maths and stats, and included stories about when misunderstanding or misinterpreting numbers could have (and sometimes have had) very grave consequences.


The maths in this book is well explained, and the application to real life issues both makes the maths more accessible to the less mathematical reader, and makes the book more interesting to the knowledgable mathematician who may be familiar with much of the maths but will be less familiar with the practical contexts where it can be applied.


The strongest sections of the book are those in which Kit discusses medical statistics and disease modelling. As his own research is based near these areas, he is able to draw on his personal knowledge of these areas, while maintaining reader-friendly explanations of the maths involved. There are many books about biology and medicine aimed at the general reader, but the maths involved in these pursuits is rarely presented to such an audience: this is this book’s biggest strength, and it sets it apart from many other maths books.


I would recommend this book to those interested in maths, and those interested in medicine or biology as they will get a lot out of reading about the maths underlying much of the work in these areas. I have a few people in mind who might be getting this one next Christmas…

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