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2012 Euler Winner Announced

2012 Euler Book Prize Winners Announced

December 9, 2011  

The Mathematical Association of America has selected Daina TaimiÅ?a's Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes (AK Peters; 2009) as the winner of the 2012 Euler Book Prize.

The Euler Book Prize is given to the author or authors of an outstanding book about mathematics. Mathematical monographs at the undergraduate level, histories, biographies, works of mathematical fiction, and anthologies are among the types of books eligible for the Prize. Read more about the Euler Book Prize.

This award will be presented during the Joint Prize Session on Thursday, January 5, 2012, at the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston, Massachusetts.

Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina TaimiÅ?a

This book is unlike any previously considered for the Euler Prize. Indeed, it is unlike any book on hyperbolic geometry previously written, and it is in a different universe from any book on crochet previously written. But, when you look at it, the idea makes such perfect sense that it seems inevitable.

Eugenio Beltrami, who in 1868 first modeled the non-Euclidean geometry of Bolyai and Lobachevsky by surfaces of negative curvature, actually toyed with the idea of building such surfaces. He made a small fragment of such a surface out of paper, and the idea was taken up again by William Thurston in the 1970s. But the idea did not take off, let alone reach a wide audience, until Daina TaimiÅ?a wrote this book. By bringing crochet technology to the subject, she makes it easy and fun to construct hyperbolic surfaces that vividly illustrate essential features of non-Euclidean geometry. The book is elegant, from both a visual and mathematical point of view.

Thus, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes is a novel approach to geometry that has brought a whole new audience to mathematics. In this respect it has greater outreach potential than any book we have previously considered. But it is much more than that; it is perfectly capable of standing on its mathematical feet as a clear, rigorous, and beautifully illustrated introduction to hyperbolic geometry. It is truly a book where art, craft, science, and mathematics come together in perfect harmony.

Biographical Note

Before coming to the United States in 1996, Daina TaimiÅ?a taught for twenty years at the University of Latvia. Currently she is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Mathematics at Cornell University. In 1997 she crocheted the first hyperbolic plane for use in a non-Euclidean geometry class. Since then her crocheted geometric models have turned also into fiber art pieces. She has given many public lectures and workshops popularizing mathematics for wide audiences. Her models have appeared in art shows in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Germany, and her native Latvia. Her idea about crocheting hyperbolic planes was picked up by The Institute For Figuring and turned into the ecological project Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, that involves thousands of participants worldwide. TaimiÅ?aâ??s crocheted hyperbolic planes are in the permanent Textile Collection of Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the American Mathematical Model Collection in Smithsonian Institutions, the US State Departmentâ??s Art in Embassies Collection, as well as others.

Response from Daina TaimiÅ?a

Paul Halmos argued, â??Mathematics is a creative art, and mathematicians should be seen as artists, not number crunchers.â? It has always been one of my favorite quotes, and I was greatly surprised and deeply honored to learn that I had been selected to receive the Euler prize (established by Paul and Virginia Halmos) exactly for viewing mathematics through art and craft. I was encouraged by a variety of people to write this book, many of whom approached me after my talks and told me that they always wanted to learn more mathematics, but they were scared away by the formality and abstractness of it. When I was in seventh grade my math teacher gave me a little book by Martin Gardner. Reading his book I realized that mathematics is not only strings of formulas or facts to remember, but that it is about many fun things. In writing Crocheting Adventures with the Hyperbolic Planes, I hope that maybe many years from now somebody else will be able to say the same about my book.

According to the AAUP, 68% of faculty in American higher education is composed of contingent and visiting faculty. I am accepting this prize in the name of that entire faculty group in hope that their contribution to the education of the next generation will be adequately acknowledged in future. I could not possibly have written this book without the help, support, and advice from other peopleâ??too many to list here. I want to thank once more the great team at my publisher, A. K. Peters, and all the reviewers; you gave me much valuable advice that shaped this book. My most heartfelt gratitude goes to David Henderson, my husband, who also acted as my first editor, critic, typesetter, consultant, opponent, and supporter; without you this book simply would not exist, so this award is as much yours as mine.