Friday, December 7, 2018

United by ice cream -- the sphere and cone

     During recent months I have been part of an online course that has helped me and a dozen others to learn steps for editing Wikipedia -- with the goal that we will be able to add biographies of "Women in Science and Mathematics" to that enormous online encyclopedia (in which, currently, less than 18% of the biographies feature women).    The course has led me to SEARCH Wikipedia using names of women I admire -- and it will be my intent to work toward addition of those missing.  One such woman -- a mathematics PhD, a talented teacher, a poet -- is Katharine O'Brien (1905-1986).  I introduce her below with one of her mathy poems (first published in The Mathematics Teacher in 1968).

     Einstein and the Ice Cream Cone       by Katharine O'Brien

     His first day at Princeton, the legend goes,
     he went for a stroll (in his rumpled clothes).
     He entered a coffee shop -- moment of doubt --
     then climbed on a stool and looked about.
     Beside him, a frosh, likewise strange and alone,
     consoling himself with an ice cream cone.
     Now Einstein's glee
     was plain to see
     at the sight of the cone with the sphere on top
     (in the hand of a frosh in a sandwich shop)
     and -- oh incredible --
     completely edible!
     He smiled at the frosh, then the waiter came,
     and Einstein gestured he'd like the same,
     and they sat there nibbling, suddenly kin,
     with no common language to verbalize in.
     But foreign no longer, no longer alone,
     with the fellowship bond of an ice cream cone.

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