More than just beautiful minds
September 10, 2009 8:51 PM   Subscribe

Photographer Mariana Cook has a new book of portraits of well-known mathematicians. Here's a slideshow with some interesting audio, and more of the photographs.
posted by Frobenius Twist (10 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"Well-known" mathematicians? Isn't that the null set?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:08 PM on September 10, 2009

"Well-known" mathematicians? Isn't that the null set?

It's called the Empty Set these days. The most famous contemporary person in a math related today would probably be Paul Krugman, since economics is highly mathematical.
posted by delmoi at 9:23 PM on September 10, 2009

There are a bunch of theoretical physicists who get their pictures in the paper, too. And there was a NYT Mag feature on Terry Tao, as I recall.
posted by grobstein at 9:34 PM on September 10, 2009

Less well known than Krugman, maybe, more mathy.

What about Stephen Hawking?
posted by grobstein at 9:35 PM on September 10, 2009

Oh, and she got Penrose and Nash -- author of popular books, and subject of a feature film, respectively.
posted by grobstein at 9:38 PM on September 10, 2009

Persi Diaconis would be a good FPP all on his own, if he hasn't already been.
posted by DU at 5:40 AM on September 11, 2009

grobstein: here's the feature on Terry Tao in the NYT. It's a bit hard to read; they seem to have taken a sidebar and put it in front of the main article,
posted by madcaptenor at 6:23 AM on September 11, 2009

Here is a better version of the NYT piece; also a story the NYT ran upon the awarding of the 2006 Fields Medals (which of course focuses on Perelman).
posted by madcaptenor at 6:26 AM on September 11, 2009

Great stuff from Ed Nelson:

"I had the great good fortune to be the youngest of four sons with a seven-year gap between my brothers and me, born into a warm and loving family. This was in Georgia, in the depths of the Depression, where my father organized interracial conferences. He was the sixth Methodist minister in lineal descent. While driving he would amuse himself by mentally representing the license plate numbers of cars as the sum of four squares."

I blogged about the book here.

Nash is indeed well-known, but isn't a working mathematician anymore. Andrew Wiles was legitimately pretty famous around the time he proved Fermat's Last Theorem in the 1990s, and even now I think he's probably the best-known contemporary pure mathematician.

Diaconis is a great example of a mathematician who you could imagine being famous -- great life story (professional magician turned mathematician) theorems that are easy to state in an oversimplified but still contentful way (it takes seven shuffles to randomize a deck of cards) and an interest in mathematical topics with real-world implications (how surprised should people be by coincidences?)
posted by escabeche at 6:50 AM on September 11, 2009

I bought the book a few months ago on escabeche's recommendation. It's gorgeous. Really makes me wish I had a coffee table. Even better are the stories, and the connections between the mathematicians. I had no idea that at one point, the Browder brothers (William, Felix and Andrew) were the chairs of the math departments at Princeton, Chicago, and Stony Brook. That's not far from total world domination! Both Fefferman brothers appear, and there are even two father-daughter pairs (Heisuke and Eriko Hironaka and George and Kate Okikiolu).

Personal favorite: Eriko Hironaka's story about watching her father and his students sit silently around the kitchen table, each staring at a different point in space and thinking, until one of them said something and all erupted in heated conversation.
posted by gleuschk at 7:04 AM on September 11, 2009

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