Prefaces to the German Editions Math is like love a simple idea, but it can get complicated. — R. Drabek Preface to the First German Edition The subject of this book is the history of a classical problem in alge- bra. We will recount the search for formulas describing the solutions of polynomial equations in one unknown and how a succession of fail- ures led finally to knowledge of a quite unexpected sort, and indeed, of fundamental importance in mathematics. Let us look briefly at the object that enticed many of the world's best mathematicians over a period of three centuries. Perhaps, dear reader, you recall from your school days quadratic equations of the form x2 - 6x + 1 = 0 as well as the "quadratic formula" V , [v2 for the solution of the "general" quadratic equation x2 + px + q = 0. ix

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