Marian Miner Cook

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019 - Evening Program
Mathematics and Culture: Geometry and Everything Else
Judith V. Grabiner

Geometric ideas are used in many cultures, both to give order to the cosmos and to build bridges, military emplacements, and houses of worship. In the West, geometry had an especially amazing trajectory. Euclid’s geometry for many centuries was the epitome of certainty: It trained the mind, drew the soul from the ephemeral to the real, described art and architecture, upheld the natural and social order, supported Newtonian science and embodied Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason. Yet it had a tragic flaw. Mathematicians, ancient and Enlightenment, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, worked in vain to fix things. The ideal blew up in everyone’s faces in the nineteenth century, producing new ideas of space, destroying the unchallengeable authority of mathematics, revolutionizing art, making relativity physics possible, and helping create modernism. Judith Grabiner, professor of mathematics at Pitzer College, will show how. 

Judith V. Grabiner, the Flora Sanborn Pitzer Professor Emerita of Mathematics at Pitzer College, is a mathematician and historian of mathematics. Her main interest is of mathematics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Grabiner majored in mathematics at the University of Chicago and received her M.A. and Ph.D. in the history of science from Harvard. She taught at Harvard, U. C. Santa Barbara, Cal State L. A., Cal State Dominguez Hills, UCLA, the University of Leeds in England, before settling in at Pitzer College in 1985 where she taught for 31 years.

A Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, Grabiner has won many awards including the Mathematical Association of America's Haimo Award for College or University teaching, the Beckenbach prize for the best book published by the MAA, Allendoerfer Award on three occasions for the best article in the Mathematics Magazine, Lester Ford Award on four occasions for best article in the American Mathematical Monthly, among others.

Grabiner is most proud of being able to teach mathematics to students who start out actually disliking the subject and, though retired, she continues to serve as a math resource tutor for the Claremont After-School Programs