H. S. M. Coxeter, 1907–2003

Thursday 3 April 2003

The greatest geometer of the 20th century, Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter, has died (obituary). He was a math uber-geek, with connections to an amazing list of other luminaries, including Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein, and Escher.

I first heard of Coxeter as one of the authors of The 59 Icosahedra, which sounds like a Hitchcock movie, but is actually a treatise on the stellations of the icosahedron. The image below is a diagram of the stellation face of the icosahedron (more information and pictures here).

He contributed authoritatively to all areas of geometry, from introductory textbooks to expositions on non-Euclidean geometery, to his specialty, extending the concepts of uniform polyhedra to higher dimensions.

As an example of his old-school style, he apparently never used computers, writing his papers in pencil. Just being a professional geometer interested in shapes made him seem like a throwback. Whenever I try to catch a whiff of what recent geometry work is like, it seems more like complex algebra or number theory than actual geometry (aren’t there supposed to be shapes in there somewhere?).

Stellation face of the icosahedron

Comments

[gravatar]
Manely 4:10 PM on 28 May 2008

Hi I'm a computer substitute teacher and i want to give my kids something fun and at the same time i want them to learn more about number and this neat figures because is going to help them in the future and if your can tell me how to do them and also what program to use so we can start as soonest possible i really appreciated thanks you, Mrs.Romero from Yuma Az.

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