Stanford University Student Attempts to Reconstruct History of Geometry Diagrams

Lee traced the changes in diagrams over the course of human history

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Geometry Diagrams
Various Geometry Solids. Pixabay
  • New approach to this study made by Eunsoo Lee who is a PhD student in Classics at Stanford University
  • Lee was confused by the blind spot in the study of Elements which changed drastically over time after multiple copies and translations
  • His professor considered his project as unique and groundbreaking in the field of classics

June 26, 2017: Geometry diagrams and patterns have been with us for a very long time. Whether we liked it or not, we all had to make diagrams and read geometry books when we were in school. Now, researchers are trying to understand the geometric patterns through examinations of texts and writing which is also known as philology.

There is a new approach to this study made by Eunsoo Lee who is a PhD student in Classics at Stanford University by tracing the changes and variations in diagrams over the course of human history.

Lee examined the changes in diagrams used in a collection of 13 books on mathematical and geometry concepts called Elements, written by Euclid, an ancient Greek mathematician.

Lee first got to know about Elements during his mathematics undergraduate degree at Seoul National University. He said, “I was fascinated by its simple logic and structure.”

Reviel Netz, professor of classics said, “Until recently, no one has really examined the visual side of ancient science, you would try to recover the words that people said but you didn’t try to recover the visual impact, the images.”

Lee was confused by the blind spot in the study of Elements which changed drastically over time after multiple copies and translations. This became the basis of Lee’s project, which his professor considered as unique and groundbreaking in the field of classics.

Netz Said, “We’ve come to realise just how central images are to scientific thinking. You do one kind of science when you assume that diagrams are precise pictures, and you do a different kind of science when diagrams are assumed to be just rough sketches.”

Prepared by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi