Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Lemma by Constance Reid

Constance Reid (1918-2010), died on October 14.  Sister of a mathematician (Julia Robinson), Reid wrote first about life in World War II factories that supported the war effort and then, later, several biographies (including one of her sister) and other books about mathematicsKenneth Rexroth's poem "A Lemma by Constance Reid" (offered below) is based on material appearing in Reid's popular book From Zero to Infinity:  What Makes Numbers Interesting (Thomas Y Crowell, 1955).  Reid is known for the enthusiasm and clarity with which she presented mathematical ideas--seeking to attract and to satisfy non-mathematical readers. 

   A Lemma by Constance Reid        by Kenneth Rexroth

   There is a square for every
   Natural number. If we
   Divde the squares into even
   And odd, we find that we can
   Place the natural numbers
   And the two sets of even
   And odd squares in one to one
                             We will never
   Run out of squares. But neither
   Will we run out of even
   Or odd squares. Rest assured, though
   Squares are inexhaustible, and
   Problems concerning squares are
   Also inexhaustible,
   So are natural numbers.

1 comment:

  1. f j craveiro de carvalhoOctober 27, 2010 at 7:03 AM

    I am sorry to read that CR has just died. In fact, recently, I had wondered if she would be still alive.

    A few years ago we exchanged a few messages and the interview books where she appeared or that she co-authored inspired me enormously!

    A Great Lady!Someone whose biographies, Hilbert & Courant, Julia, Neyman- A portrait from life,... will become classics if it is the case they are not that already.