Many a Christmas list will include a bottle of Chanel No.5.

But few on the receiving end will know how the name came about.

The French courtier ‘Coco’ (Gabrielle) Chanel believed five to be a special number. For the woman brought up from the age of 12 in a Cistercian orphanage, it symbolized the essence of mysticism and spiritualism.

When, in 1920, she was presented with samples of her new perfume numbered one to five and 20 to 24, she chose the now famous brand.

This interesting, little-known fact appears alongside hundreds of others in science buff Ruth Binney’s new book exploring the meaning and magic of numbers.

The No.1 Book of Numbers unearths a myriad of numerical facts and figures.

There are some useful snippets: did you know that even if your mobile phone is locked, or has no SIM car, and even if you are in a blackspot with no signal, it is possible in most parts of the world to call an emergency number such as 999?

Or that the traditional Victoria sandwich cake is made with ‘the weight of two eggs’. The cook striving for perfection would put the eggs on one side of a scale balance and measure the flour, sugar and butter to exactly the same weight.

Ruth has strong connections to Bradford, spending her infancy in North View Road, East Bierley. “My dad was a Bradfordian, as were many generations before him,” she says.

The family moved away but returned regularly to visit Ruth’s aunt Ellen Chanter, a former mayor of Spenborough.

Ellen and her brother Charles ran Bradford-based AE Chanter, a small light engineering company, while her uncle Harry had a pharmacist’s at Dudley Hill.

When Ruth was growing up she loved numbers.

“I used to love sums and counting - I would count the number of petals on flowers,” she says.

Like her physics teacher father, she studied at the University of Cambridge, graduating in natural sciences before going to work as an editor in the publishing industry, specialising in science books.

That passion for numbers never left her. “I have also long been fascinated by interesting facts,” she says.

The two interests have come together in the book.

“I think it is part of my make-up to like numbers, so I have blended that with social history,” she says. “So many things have numbers attached to them. I used to like reading The Famous Five and The Secret Seven.”

The book is a mine of dip-in-and-out information, including:

*To the Chinese 8 is the luckiest number (because it sounds like the word for prosperity) and it is no coincidence that the Beijing Olympics began at 8 minutes and eight seconds past 8pm on 8/08/2008.

*In Japan nine is unlucky because the word sounds like the word for pain.

*It is lucky to find nine peas in a pod.

*Six is a perfect number - all the numbers by which it can be divided (1,2 and 3) add up to the number itself.

*We have five senses and our sense of taste responds to five basic flavours – salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (savory).

*Nearly every snowflake is six-sided and each is unique.

It is a fascinating read - did you know that the average body contains around 96,500 (60,000) miles of blood vessels? Or that David killed Goliath with five pebbles? I always thought it was one.

Ruth explores the phrases and sayings attached to numbers. “I’ve never really considered what the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’ means - it is the theory that we are all connected by six or fewer people to everyone on earth,” she says.

As for her favourite number, she comments: “I like the number two as it is the only even prime number, and although I am a scientist I am also quite superstitious - I like to see magpies in twos.”

She adds: “When I was a teenager I liked the number 16, especially as when I was that age the song 'Only 16' was top of the charts."

*The No.1 Book of Numbers by Ruth Binney is published by Rydon Publishing and is priced £12.99.