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Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann

Measuring the World

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The fascinating true story of two German scientists – Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Grauss - and their quest to discover facts about the world that we take for granted today. The two eccentrics are completely different characters from completely different backgrounds with completely different working styles – but they are brought together by their common yearning for truth and knowledge. Grauss, the great mathematician, born in poverty, is reluctant to get out of bed, let alone leave home (despite the company of his own family who he despises). The aristocratic von Humboldt, the naturalist and explorer, is an emotional loner who travels the world with relentless energy and missionary zeal. Yet this book brings them together forever. If you enjoyed A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, you will enjoy completing your learning curve by reading this book.

If you like Daniel Kehlmann you might also like to read books by Marcel Proust, Iain Pears and Vladimir Nabokov.


Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann

Measuring the World recreates the parallel but contrasting lives of two geniuses of the German Enlightenment - the naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt and the mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss.

Towards the end of the 18th century, these two brilliant young Germans set out to measure the world. Humboldt, a Prussian aristocrat schooled for greatness, negotiates savannah and jungle, travels down the Orinoco, climbs the highest mountain then known to man, counts head lice on the heads of the natives, and explores every hole in the ground. Gauss, a man born in poverty who will be recognised as the greatest mathematician since Newton, does not even need to leave his home in Göttingen to know that space is curved. He can run prime numbers in his head, cannot imagine a life without women and yet jumps out of bed on his wedding night to jot down a mathematical formula.

Measuring the World is a novel of rare charm and readability, distinguished by its sly humour and unforgettable characterisation. It brings the two eccentric geniuses to life, their longings and their weaknesses, their balancing act between loneliness and love, absurdity and greatness, failure and success.


'Measuring the World has proved nothing less than a literary sensation... the novel has sold more than 600,000 copies in Germany, knocking J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown off the bestseller lists... it is the most successful German novel since Patrick Süskind’s Perfume ... 31-year old Daniel Kehlmann is a literary wunderkind already being compared to Nabokov and Proust.' Guardian

About the Author

Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and moved to Vienna in 1981, where he studied literature and philosophy at university before going on to complete his doctorate - a thesis on the sublime in the works of Immanuel Kant.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th April 2007


Daniel Kehlmann

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Quercus Publishing Plc




Literary Fiction
Historical Fiction
eBook Favourites



Publisher Profile

Quercus Publishing Plc is an imprint of Quercus

logo Quercus publisher
Starting out in a small office in Dorset Street, London, the company quickly expanded, producing best sellers with each of its first two titles, Universe and Speeches that Changed the World.

As well as winning awards for their books Quercus also won Small Publisher of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards and the PLUS New Company fo the Year in the Fast Growth Business Awards.

Publisher's Website

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