If you’ve ever thought that mathematics and art don’t mix, this stunning visual history of geometry will change your mind. As much a work of art as a book about mathematics, Beautiful Geometry presents more than sixty exquisite color plates illustrating a wide range of geometric patterns and theorems, accompanied by brief accounts of the fascinating history and people behind each.
With artwork by Swiss artist Eugen Jost and text by acclaimed math historian Eli Maor, this unique celebration of geometry covers numerous subjects, from straightedge-and-compass constructions to intriguing configurations involving infinity. The result is a delightful and informative illustrated tour through the 2,500-year-old history of one of the most important and beautiful branches of mathematics.
We’ve created this slideshow so that you can sample some of the beautiful images in this book, so please enjoy!
Beautiful Geometry by Eli Maior and Eugen Jost
"My artistic life revolves around patterns, numbers, and forms. I love to play with them, interpret them, and metamorphose them in endless variations." --Eugen Jost
Plate 4, Figurative Numbers, is a playful meditation on ways of arranging 49 dots in different patterns of color and shape. Some of these arrangements hint at the number relations we mentioned previously, while others are artistic expressions of what a keen eye can discover in an assembly of dots. Note, in particular, the second panel in the top row: it illustrates the fact that the sum of eight identical triangular numbers, plus 1, is always a perfect square.
Pythagorean Metamorphosis shows a series of right triangles (in white) whose proportions change from one frame to the next, starting with the extreme case where one side has zero length and then going through several phases until the other side diminishes to zero.
The (3, 4, 5) Triangle and its Four Circles
The (3, 4, 5) Triangle and its Four Circles shows the (3, 4, 5) triangle (in red) with its incircle and three excircles (in blue), for which r = (3+4-5)/2 = 1, r = (5+3-4)/2 = 2, rb = (5+4-3)/2 = 3, and rc = (5+4+3)/2 = 6.
Mean Constructions (no pun intended!), is a color-coded guide showing how to construct all three means from two line segments of given lengths (shown in red and blue). The arithmetic, geometric, and harmonic means are colored in green, yellow, and purple, respectively, while all auxiliary elements are in white.
Prime and Prime Again
Plate 15.1, Prime and Prime Again, shows a curious number sequence: start with the top eight-digit number and keep peeling off the last digits one by one, until only 7 is left. For no apparent reason, each number in this sequence is a prime.
0.999... = 1
Celtic Motif 1
Our illustration (Plate 17) shows an intriguing lace pattern winding its way around 11 dots arranged in three rows; it is based on an old Celtic motif.
Seven Circles a Flower Maketh
Plate 19, Parquet, seems at first to show a stack of identical cubes, arranged so that each layer is offset with respect to the one below it, forming the illusion of an infinite, three-dimensional staircase structure. But if you look carefully at the cubes, you will notice that each corner is the center of a regular hexagon.
Plate 20, Girasole, shows a series of squares, each of which, when adjoined to its predecessor, forms a rectangle. Starting with a black square of unit length, adjoin to it its white twin, and you get a 2x1 rectangle. Adjoin to it the green square, and you get a 3x2 rectangle. Continuing in this manner, you get rectangles whose dimensions are exactly the Fibonacci numbers. The word Girasole ("turning to the sun" in Italian) refers to the presence of these numbers in the spiral arrangement of the seeds of a sunflower - a truly remarkable example of mathematics at work in nature.
The Golden Ratio
Plate 21 showcases a sample of the many occurrences of the golden ratio in art and nature.
Pentagons and Pentagrams
Homage to Carl Friedrich Gauss
Gauss's achievement is immortalized in his German hometown of Brunswick, where a large statue of him is decorated with an ornamental 17-pointed star (Plate 23 is an artistic rendition of the actual star on the pedestal, which has deteriorated over the years); reportedly the mason in charge of the job thought that a 17-sided polygon would look too much like a circle, so he opted for the star instead.
Celtic Motif 2
Plate 24.2 shows a laced pattern of 50 dots, based on an ancient Celtic motif. Note that the entire array can be crisscrossed with a single interlacing thread; compare this with the similar pattern of 11 dots (Plate 17), where two separate threads were necessary to cover the entire array. As we said before, every number has its own personality.
Metamorphosis of a Circle
Plate 26.2, Metamorphosis of a Circle, shows four large panels. The panel on the upper left contains nine smaller frames, each with a square (in blue) and a circular disk (in red) centered on it. As the squares decrease in size, the circles expand, yet the sum of their areas remains constant. In the central frame, the square and circle have the same area, thus offering a computer-generated "solution" to the quadrature problem. In the panel on the lower right, the squares and circles reverse their roles, but the sum of their areas ins till constant. The entire sequence is thus a metamorphosis from square to circle and back.
Ellipses and Hyperbolas
When you throw two stones into a pond, each will create a disturbance that propagates outward from the point of impact in concentric circles. The two systems of circular waves eventually cross each other and form a pattern of ripples, alternating between crests and troughs. Because this interference pattern depends on the phase difference between the two oncoming waves, the ripples invariably form a system of confocal ellipses and hyperbolas, all sharing the same two foci. In this system, no two ellipses ever cross one another, nor do two hyperbolas, but every ellipse crosses every hyperbola at right angles. The two families form an orthogonal system of curves, as we see in plate 29.2.
Plate 33, Euler's e, gives the first 203 decimal places of this famous number - accurate enough for most practical applications, but still short of the exact value, which would require an infinite string of nonrepeating digits. In the margins there are several allusions to events that played a role in the history of e and the person most associated with it, Leonhard Euler: an owl ("Eule" in German); the Episcopal crosier on the flag of Euler's birthplace, the city of Basel; the latitude and longitude of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia), whose seven bridges inspired Euler to solve a famous problem that marked the birth of graph theory; and an assortment of formulas associated with e
Plate 36 shows a five-looped epicycloid (in blue) and a prolate epicycloid (in red) similar to Ptolemy's planetary epicycles. In fact, this latter curve closely resembles the path of Venus against the backdrop of the fixed stars, as seen from Earth. This is due to an 8-year cycle during which Earth, Venus, and the Sun will be aligned almost perfectly five times. Surprisingly, 8 Earth years also coincide with 13 Venusian years, locking the two planets in an 8:13 celestial resonance and giving Fibonacci aficionados one more reason to celebrate!
Nine Points and Ten Lines
Our illustration Nine Points and Ten Lines (plate 37) shows the point-by-point construction of Euler's line, beginning with the three points of defining the triangle (marked in blue). The circumference O, the centroid G, and the orthocenter H are marked in green, red, and orange, respectively, and the Euler line, in yellow. We call this a construction without words, where the points and lines speak for themselves.
Plate 39 illustrates several Steiner chains, each comprising five circles that touch an outer circle (alternately colored in blue and orange) and an inner black circle. The central panel shows this chain in its inverted, symmetric "ball-bearing" configuration.
Plate 40.2 shows a Star of David-like design made of 21 line parabolas.
Plate 44, Gothic Rose, shows a rosette, a common motif on stained glass windows like those one can find at numerous places of worship. The circle at the center illustrates a fourfold rotation and reflection symmetry, while five of the remaining circles exhibit threefold rotation symmetries with or without reflection (if you disregard the inner details in some of them). The circle in the 10-o'clock position has the twofold rotation symmetry of the yin-yang icon.
Plate 47 shows a lattice polygon with 28 grid points (in red) and 185 interior points (in yellow). Pick's formula gives us the area of this polygon as A = 185 + 28/2 - 1 = 198 square units.
Variations on a Snowflake Curve
Plate 49 is an artistic interpretation of Koch's curve, starting at the center with an equilateral triangle and a hexagram (Star of David) design but approaching the actual curve as we move toward the periphery.
The Rationals Are Countable!
In a way, [Cantor] accomplished the vision of William Blake's famous verse in Auguries of Innocence:
To see the world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower.
Hold infinitely in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
Click here to sample selections from the book.