Photo courtesy of the Institute for Advanced Study
André Weil, one of the giants of 20th century mathematics, died on August 6, 1998, at the age of 92. His contributions ranged over a wide area of mathematics, but were centered in the areas of number theory and algebraic geometry.
Most mathematicians lead rather staid lives; Weil's was anything but. He spent a couple of years in India in the 1930's, and was imprisoned in Finland on suspicion of being a Russian spy during World War II. Weil's autobiography, The Apprenticeship of a Mathematician, Birkhäuser 1992, deals with his life from his birth in 1906 until his arrival in the U.S. in 1947. (This book originally appeared in French, and it has since also been translated into German.)
In his later years Weil became particularly interested in the history of number theory. This interest is reflected in his book Number Theory: An approach through history from Hammurapi through Legendre, Birkhäuser 1983. This book has four chapters: Protohistory, Fermat and his Correspondents, Euler, and An Age of Transition: Lagrange and Legendre. While it is not a book for beginners, a reader with some background in number theory can read it with profit and pleasure.