You are here

The House That Calculus Built

April 17, 2009

James D. Stewart, a longtime professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, wrote some of the most popular calculus textbooks of the last few decades. He is now the occupant of a unique, multimillion-dollar home, dubbed Integral House, in Toronto.

"Perched on a hillside overlooking a ravine, the five-floor, 18,000-square-foot house-cum-concert hall looks like an accordion in motion, with undulating walls of wood and floor-to-ceiling glass," Sara Lin wrote in the April 3, 2009, Wall Street Journal.

"You only get a project like this once in your life," said Howard Sutcliffe, one of the architects of Stewart's $24 million abode.

Five years in the making, Integral House is "one of the most important private houses built in North America in a long time," observed Glenn D. Lowry, director of New York's Museum of Modern Art. "The curved walls make it almost impossible to relate it to spaces that you know," he noted. "It's one of the most remarkable houses I've ever been in."

Stewart, who received an M.S. degree from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, has always lived in the worlds of both mathematics and music. He did research in and taught harmonic analysis, functional analysis, and calculus at McMaster. He also served as concertmaster of the university's symphony orchestra, while playing as a professional violinist in the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.

Stewart made his fortune writing a best-selling series of textbooks on algebra, precalculus, and calculus, which have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Greek, and Indonesian.

"My books and my house are my twin legacies," Stewart said. "I see my role evolving from performer to impresario."

With its own concert hall, Stewart's house is "what the great composers had in mind when they wrote chamber music," claimed soprano Measha Brueggergosman. "It's a space where people are able to look into the eyes of the musicians."

And perhaps sense the beauty of mathematics.

Source: Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2009.

Start Date: 
Friday, April 17, 2009