Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A Life Made to Count

     The title of this blog-post is part of a headline from The Washington Post -- a headline for a review by GW Professor Lisa Page  of a posthumously published and recently released memoir by Katherine Johnson (1918 - 2020) :  My Remarkable Journey:  A Memoir, written with assistance from Joylette Hylick, Katherine Moore and Lisa Frazier Page (Amistad, 2021).

     As you might expect, numbers are at the center of Johnson's memoir -- numbers never intimidated Johnson — in fact, they thrilled her. The symmetry, the structural interplay of equations and formulas, were always in her head.  (Read a bit of the book here.)

     As Johnson looked back over her life of more than one hundred years, I too was prompted to looks back -- to an article of mine entitled "MATHEMATICS AND POETRY:  ISOLATED OR INTEGRATED?" and published in the Humanistic Mathematics Network Newsletter (forerunner of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics) in May, 1991 -- and available here.  And I can't resist quoting a bit from the article, sharing some phrases from the poem "Poetry" by Marianne Moore (1887-1972).

       . . . things are important not because a
       high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them
       but because they are useful . . . the same thing
       may be said for all of us—that we do not admire
       what we cannot understand. 

       [Not until we] can present for inspection,
       imaginary gardens with real toads in them
       shall we have it . . .

Moore's complete poem is available here.

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