PUSHING LIMITS: Memoir of a Maverick from Soldier to Scholar

Pushing Limits book cover

This memoir recounts Ted's unique odyssey through military hurdles at West Point, U. S. Army Ranger training, and the Vietnam War, and then many civilian escapades - hitchhiking in third-world hotspots, fending off sharks in Bahamian reefs, camping deep behind the forbidding Iron Curtain, and surviving the cutthroat mathematics PhD program at Berkeley.

Packed with energy, humor, and suspense, both physical and intellectual, it also brings to life the struggles and risks underlying mathematical research, the unparalleled thrill of making scientific breakthroughs, and the joy of sharing those discoveries around the world.

The paperback version is now available on amazon (click here); an audiobook version is now also available.

This memoir was originally published under the title Pushing Limits: From West Point to Berkeley and Beyond in hardback and electronic formats in 2017 in a joint venture by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the American Mathematical Society (AMS). For more information, click here.

Pushing Limits book cover



Picture Indiana Jones as a mathematician...This is a remarkable memoir, one unlikely to find its match in the diversity of experiences it describes. Hill is a master storyteller.
MAA Reviews

Ted Hill... shares riveting tales from his time in the military, the Vietnam War, Berkeley in the '70s, six Communist countries during the Cold War, and Georgia Tech in the '80s - all retold alongside his academic success and mathematical breakthroughs.
California Magazine

Thirty years [after Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman], Ted Hill's Pushing limits: from West Point to Berkeley and Beyond conveys the exact same sense of exaltation. Ted is a world-class mathematician—and, like Feynman's, his tales are almost unbelievable...adventures of an academic set loose in the world.
Bernoulli News

Ted's story is much more than a chronological replay of the exciting, wacky adventures and events of his life...Pushing Limits gave me a glimpse of a world of adventure and challenge, risk and reward, math and military, and right and wrong...
Cyber Defense Review

[T]his reviewer has no doubt that in a hundred years or so this autobiography will be read as an attractive, vivid and generally reliable description of political and academic, in particular, mathematical life in the United States of America in the second half of the 20th century...
Zentralblatt MATH

This book is a celebration of an unusual odyssey towards a mathematical career... [recounting] his days as a West Point cadet, a trainee Ranger, army captain in the Vietnam War, a Ph.D. candidate at Berkeley, a twenty-year itinerant professor at Georgia Tech, and an ambassador of mathematics…Hill is a master story-teller...
Mathematical Reviews

...he has always had a maverick side...[with] little need for possessions...Like Feynman...[he] insists on the need for a real understanding of the fundamental ideas of a problem...There are many good stories in the book.
The Mathematical Gazette (Cambridge)

...Hill does not attempt to explain mathematics...[his] adventures are paramount and they are worth reading.
NRC Handelsblad

This insightful and entertaining book's first half covers Hill's military career...[T]he second half tells just about everything you would want to know about the study of mathematics at the highest levels...His determination to pursue problems to their conclusion won my admiration.
Vietnam Veterans of America Magazine

The author's goal is to dispel the notion that mathematicians are stodgy and lead boring, reclusive lives - he succeeds admirably!
Choice Reviews


Rick Atkinson, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, author of The Long Gray Line:
"...captivating memoir reveals an intriguing character who is part Renaissance Man, part Huckleberry Finn. Fast-paced and often hilarious...provides some penetrating and impious insights into some of our more revered institutions."

Doron Zeilberger, Rutgers University, winner of MAA Ford Prize, AMS Steele Prize, and ICA Euler Medal:
"Ted Hill is unique in having both a very exciting internal mathematical life...and an action-filled, adventurous, external life...his natural gift, very rare for mathematicians, of story-telling, [makes this] a page-turner."

General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Commander:
"Thoughtful, funny, evocative, Ted Hill, takes us through a life well-lived...an intensely personal story that will appeal to every profession - and to every generation!"

Alex Bellos, author of Here's Looking at Euclid and The Grapes of Math:
"Ted Hill is an original. Mathematician. Adventurer. Activist. His life has seen both his mind and body tested to extremes...insightful, entertaining and - in a very good way - unlike any other book you will ever read by a mathematician."

David Ignatius, Columnist and Associate Editor at The Washington Post, author of Body of Lies:
"I loved the book. Extraordinary job of making scenes come alive...with great energy and really good dialog."

Reuben Hersh, coauthor of The Mathematical Experience, winner of a National Book Award in Science:
"Ted Hill's incredible life story shows that a mathematical life can be heroic."

John Allen Paulos, Professor of Mathematics at Temple University, author of Innumeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper:
"Straddling the military and the mathematical worlds, Ted Hill's life is full of contradictions, daring exploits and accomplishments, and outright fun and adventure. A fascinating read..."

Mircea Pitici, Cornell University, Editor of Best Writing on Mathematics:
"This [memoir]...will thrill and perplex the reader, by the seamless mixture of mind-adventure and body adventure, and for the unconventional academic path traveled by its author. Hill perpetually runs into trouble with authorities...[but] befriends mathematicians all over the world... With verve and nerve, Hill writes the story of...a life that touches on the highly exceptional, rich in friendship, thought, and humane warmth."