The author of this book is a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington and is well-known for his discoveries in number theory, in particular in hyperelliptic and elliptic curve cryptography. However, only about one sixth of the book is devoted to mathematics and mathematics education, even when the author’s opinions are extremely interesting concerning the conflict between the greatest security and greater efficiency in cryptography, as well as his views of undergraduate education and the proportion of computer learning there (the discussions deserve to be completed as articles on the author’s personal web page http://www.math.washington.edu/~koblitz/).
The main part of the book is concerned with Koblitz’s rebellious student years at Harvard and Princeton, his participation in student leftist activities and primarily with the travels all over the world made together with his wife Ann Hibner Koblitz. She wrote the famous biography of Sofia Kovalevskaia and from the book’s royalties founded the Kovalevskaia Prize supporting scientific activities of women from many mathematically less developed countries. The author’s interesting impressions and experiences covering the scientific and cultural conditions and mathematics education in the Soviet Union, Vietnam and Middle and South American countries over the last 30 years are extremely attractive reading, especially for older readers able to compare their own knowledge with the experience of the author and his wife. Moreover, many aspects of American academic life are described at length and would certainly spark the reader’s interest even in the case of non-mathematicians.