Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mathematical Poetry

David Corfield writes a wonderful blog called "Philosophy of Real Mathematics", where he addresses
"what leading mathematicians of their day have achieved, how their styles of reasoning evolve, how they justify the course along which they steer their programmes, what constitute obstacles to these programmes, how they come to view a domain as worthy of study and how their ideas shape and are shaped by the concerns of physicists and other scientists".
His latest entry points us to another beautiful piece of mathematical poetry, this one written by no less than James Clerk Maxwell. The background for this poem is described in Corfield's post: I merely reproduce here the first stanza of the poem:

My soul's an amphicheiral knot
Upon a liquid vortex wrought
By Intellect in the Unseen residing,
While thou dost like a convict sit
With marlinspike untwisting it
Only to find my knottiness abiding,
Since all the tools for my untying
In four-dimensioned space are lying,
Where playful fancy intersperses
Whole avenues of universes,
Where Klein and Clifford fill the void
With one unbounded, finite homoloid,
Whereby the infinite is hopelessly destroyed.



  1. "My soul's an ampheichiral knot" - great stuff! Mathematicians who are bonafide poets - I know only of Jacques Roubaud. 

    Posted by Rahul

  2. Hi Suresh,
    The Wondering Minstrels ( ran a series on poems written by scientists. Sadly, they don't have it collected in one place. So here's a list of links ot some of the poems I remember : (this isn't by a scientist... but it's science related at least)

    And this one goes the other way: By S.T. Coleridge on a ruler and compass construction of an equilateral triangle (with proof!!)


    Posted by Rajiv


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