Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emily Dickinson -- and circumference

     Great poets may be investigated from many points of view.  For Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), some have noticed that her work employs particular terms from mathematics.  Including a much-quoted line -- "My business is circumference" --  in a letter to Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Dickinson is said to have used the word "circumference" in six letters and seventeen poems.  For example, the word appears in both of the poems offered below:

     633     by Emily Dickinson

     When Bells stop ringing—Church—begins
     The Positive—of Bells—
     When Cogs—stop—that's Circumference—
     The Ultimate—of Wheels.    

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Remembering Sophia Kovalevsky


With Reason: A Portrait     by JoAnne Growney   (June 2012)

        Sophia Kovalevsky *    (1850-1891)

Because she was Russian  . . .
Because she had abundant curly hair . . .
Because she loved mathematics . . .
Because she was born in the 19th century . . .
Because lecture notes for calculus papered  her nursery walls . . .
Because her parents forbade her to leave home . . .
Because a woman could not travel abroad from Russia 

                    without her father or a husband . . .
Because she found a kind man to marry . . .
Because ideas came to her in torrents . . .
Because she married a man she did not love . . .


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Seeking poems about math-women

In this blog I have previously posted poems that speak of the lives of these math-women:

     Sophie Germain (1776-1831)
     Florence Nightingale  (1820-1910)
     Amalie "Emmy" Noether  (1882-1935)
     Grace Murray Hopper (1906 - 1988)

And also a poem about four influential teachers of mine; three of them math-people; three of them women.

I want more poems about women in mathematics;   
send me yours (or those of others) -- 
write new ones; CELEBRATE women in mathematics:

women who are alive or ones that have passed; 
women of fame or those without; 
women out in front or those in quiet corners -- 
women we want to remember.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sophie Germain dressed as a man to study math

One of the fine sources for biographies and other topics in the history of mathematics is MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, hosted by the University of St Andrews in Scotland.  Poet Brian McCabe cites this archive for historical information he used as background for his poems starring mathematicians -- found in his collection, Zero (Polygon, 2009).  Here is McCabe's poem for the outstanding French mathematician, Sophie Germain (1776-1831). 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Can mathematics maximize happiness?

     My post for last Monday (11 June 2012) offered a link I would like to repeat:  to an article by Judy Green, "How Many Women Mathematicians Can You Name?"  (first published in Math Horizons in 2001).  One of the seven names in Green's opening paragraph is "Sofia Kovalevskaia" (1850 - 1891); this prizewinning Russian mathematician (whose name appears with a variety of spellings, including "Sophia Kovalevsky" and "Sonya Kovalevskaya") was also a writer of literary work -- several novels, a play, a memoir, some poetry.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Think Like a Man


     To publish mathematics,
     a woman must learn to think
     like a man, learn to write like
     a man, to use only her
     initials so reviewers
     guess she's a man!  Women must
     masquerade, pretend man-think --

     or can we build
     new attitudes,
     so all of us
     have fair chances?       ("Square Attitudes"   by JoAnne Growney)   

Friday, June 8, 2012

Computer code -- is poetry?

Dubliner Eavan Boland is a master poet (and one of my favorites); Ireland shares her with the creative writing program at Stanford University.  In Against Love Poetry (Norton, 2001), we find Boland's tribute to the also-amazing master of language, Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1988).


                     Code          by Eavan Boland

             An Ode to Grace Murray Hopper  1906-88
    maker of a computer compiler and verifier of COBOL 

   Poet to poet.  I imagine you
     at the edge of language, at the start of summer
       in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, writing code.
         You have no sense of time.  No sense of minutes even.
           They cannot reach inside your world,
             your gray work station
               with when yet now never and once.
                 You have missed the other seven.
                   This is the eight day of Creation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sum of moments

Here is a 3x3 square poem -- inspired by a recently-found margin-note I made in Differential and Integral Calculus (by Ross R Middlemiss) when it was my text for an introductory calculus course at Westminster College all those years ago:

          The sum of
          the moments
          is zero.

While the pages of text near the note go on with discussions and diagrams of slices and sums and limits -- they introduce the centroid, the moment of inertia, and the radius of gyration, and are importantly informative -- it is the margin-note that has today delighted me.  I wonder if the girl who wrote it saw it as I do today. I like the mystery.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Counting the dead

This poem by Joan Mazza heightens the impact of war-data by bringing it into the kitchen and the office -- juxtaposing war-numbers with the events of a pleasant day in central Virginia.  

Numbers for the Week       by Joan Mazza

This morning, it was twenty-eight degrees. I photographed
red oak leaves rimed with frost. I made chicken soup, canned
ten pint jars in the pressure cooker at fifteen pounds of pressure
for seventy-five minutes. On the stump near the compost pile,
I left the skin of fourteen chicken thighs for crows and woodpeckers.