This Thursday celebrates the 76th birthday of Emeritus Mathematics Professor and Fellow of the Royal Society Ian Stewart. While Stewart is an excellent mathematician in his own right with over 140 published papers, his most significant contributions to the subject have come from his countless magazine articles, books and even apps on ‘popular mathematics’. His ability to translate complex concepts into a story that is accessible to all is truly remarkable and has allowed appreciation for mathematical beauty to reach a far greater audience. You can see why we’re big fans… 

In his 75 years, he’s produced hundreds of publications. Here are just five of our favourites.

1. In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World

“Most people are familiar with history's great equations: Newton's Law of Gravity, for instance, or Einstein's theory of relativity. But the way these mathematical breakthroughs have contributed to human progress is seldom appreciated. In In Pursuit of the Unknown, celebrated mathematician Ian Stewart untangles the roots of our most important mathematical statements to show that equations have long been a driving force behind nearly every aspect of our lives.”

2. Significant Figure: The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians

“Through these short biographies, we get acquainted with the history of mathematians from Archimedes to Benoit Mandelbrot, and learn about those too often left out of the cannon, such as Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (c. 780-850), the creator of algebra, and Augusta Ada King (1815-1852), Countess of Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer.”

3. Letters to a Young Mathematician

Letters to a Young Mathematician tells readers what Ian Stewart wishes he had known when he was a student and young faculty member. Subjects ranging from the philosophical to the practical -- what mathematics is and why it's worth doing, the relationship between logic and proof, the role of beauty in mathematical thinking, the future of mathematics, how to deal with the peculiarities of the mathematical community, and many others -- are dealt with in Stewart's much-admired style, which combines subtle, easy-going humor with a talent for cutting to the heart of the matter.”

4. Cows in the Maze: And Other Mathematical Explorations

“In the title essay, Stewart introduces readers to Robert Abbott's mind-bending "Where Are the Cows?" maze, which changes every time you pass through it, and is said to be the most difficult maze ever invented. In addition, he shows how a 90-year old woman and a computer scientist cracked a long-standing question about counting magic squares, describes the mathematical patterns in animal movement (walk, trot, gallop), looks at a fusion of art, mathematics, and the physics of sand piles, and reveals how mathematicians can--and do--prove a negative.”

5. Taming the Infinite: The Story of Mathematics from the First Numbers to Chaos Theory 

“In his famous straightforward style, Ian Stewart explains each major development—from the first number systems to chaos theory—and considers how each affected society and changed everyday life forever. Written to provide a captivating historic narrative for the non-mathematician, this book is packed with fascinating nuggets and quirky asides, and contains plenty of illustrations and diagrams to illuminate and aid understanding of a subject many dread, but which has made the world what it is today.”