Georges Ifrah

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Georges Ifrah (1947 – 1 November 2019) was a teacher of mathematics, a French author and a self-taught historian of mathematics, especially numerals.

His work, From One to Zero: A Universal History of Numbers (1985, 1994) was translated into multiple languages, became an international bestseller, and was included in American Scientist's list of "100 or so Books that shaped a Century of Science", referring to the 20th century.[1] Despite popular acclaim, it has been broadly criticized by scholars.[2][3]


Several books devoted to numbers and history of numbers and number related topics including:

  • 1981: Histoire Universelle des Chiffres (Paris)
    • English translation (1985): From one to zero. A universal history of numbers transl. by Lowell Bair. New York: Viking Penguin Inc. XVI, 503 pages. (Zentralblatt review: 0589.01001: "It is the richness in documents from both primitive and advanced cultures, which makes this publication unique.[…]a number of authors mentioned in the text are not cited in this bibliography. And in many cases the sources of illustrations remain anonymous".)
    • German translation (1986): Universalgeschichte der Zahlen transl. by Alexander von Platen. Frankfurt/New York: Campus Verlag. 580 pages. (Zentralblatt review 0606.01023.)
    • German translation (1989): Universalgeschichte der Zahlen. 600 pages. (Additional introduction and indices.) (Zentralblatt review: 0686.01001.)
    • Italian translation (1983): Storia universale dei numeri. Milano: Mondadori. 585 pages.
  • 1985: Les chiffres ou l'histoire d'une grande invention Robert Laffont
    • "The history of numbers or the history of a great discovery" (abridged version? ≈260 pages)
    • Polish translation (1990): Dzieje liczby czyli historia wielkiego wynalazku translated by Stanisław Hartman. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich-Wydawnictwo Polskiej Akademii Nauk (Ossolineum). 260 pages. ISBN 83-04-03218-X. (Zentralblatt review: 0758.01017.)
  • 1994: Histoire universelle des chiffres, 2nd edition. (Seghers, puis Bouquins, Robert Laffont, 1994
    • Now in two volumes: Vol I 633 pages ISBN 0-471-37568-3 (Zentralblatt review: 0955.01002), Vol II 412 pages ISBN 0-471-39671-0 (Zentralblatt review: 0969.68001).
    • Norwegian translation (1997): All verdens tall. Tallenes kulturhistorie. I, II. Translated by Anne Falken, Guri Haarr, Margrethe Kvarenes and Svanhild Solløs. Oslo: Pax Forlag. 1284 p. (1997). ISBN 82-530-1887-8 (set); ISBN 82-530-1897-5(vol.1); ISBN 82-530-1898-3 (vol.2). (Zentralblatt review: 0933.01001)
    • English translation (1998): Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer. Translated by David Bellos, E.F. Harding, Sophie Wood and Ian Monk. Harville Press, London, 1998 (ISBN 978-1860463242).
      • American edition of English tr., Volume 1 (2000): The Universal History of Numbers: From prehistory to the invention of the computer. Translated by David Bellos, E.F. Harding, Sophie Wood and Ian Monk. John Wiley and Sons Inc., 2000.
      • American edition of English tr, Volume 2 (2001): The Universal History of Computing: From the Abacus to the Quantum Computer with E. F. Harding. John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2001, ISBN 0-471-44147-3 (softcover) and ISBN 0-471-39671-0 (hardcover).


  1. ^ Morrison, Philip; Morrison, Phylis (November–December 1999). "100 or so Books that shaped a Century of Science". American Scientist. Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. 87 (6). Retrieved 2010-06-15.
  2. ^ Dauben, Joseph; Georges Ifrah (January 2002). "Book Review: The Universal History of Numbers and The Universal History of Computing (part 1)" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 49 (1): 32–38. ISSN 0002-9920.
    Dauben, Joseph; Georges Ifrah (February 2002). "Book Review: The Universal History of Numbers and The Universal History of Computing (part 2)" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 49 (2): 211–216. ISSN 0002-9920.
  3. ^ C. Philipp E. Nothaft: Medieval Europe’s satanic ciphers: on the genesis of a modern myth. British Journal for the History of Mathematics 35, 2020, doi:10.1080/26375451.2020.1726050 (free full text).