Daina Taimina

Daina Taimina

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Daina Taimina is a Latvian
Latvians
Latvians or Letts are the indigenous Baltic people of Latvia.-History:Latvians occasionally refer to themselves by the ancient name of Latvji, which may have originated from the word Latve which is a name of the river that presumably flowed through what is now eastern Latvia...

 mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

, currently Adjunct Associate Professor at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, known for crochet
Crochet
Crochet is a process of creating fabric from yarn, thread, or other material strands using a crochet hook. The word is derived from the French word "crochet", meaning hook. Hooks can be made of materials such as metals, woods or plastic and are commercially manufactured as well as produced by...

ing objects to illustrate hyperbolic space
Hyperbolic space
In mathematics, hyperbolic space is a type of non-Euclidean geometry. Whereas spherical geometry has a constant positive curvature, hyperbolic geometry has a negative curvature: every point in hyperbolic space is a saddle point...

. She received all her formal education in Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, Latvia, where in 1977 she graduated summa cum laude from the University of Latvia
University of Latvia
University of Latvia is a university located in Riga, Latvia. Being established in 1919, University of Latvia is the biggest university in the Baltic states.-History:...

 and completed her graduate work in theoretical computer science (supervised by Prof. Rusins-Martins Freivalds) in 1990. At that time, a doctoral thesis had to be defended outside of Latvia, so defended hers in Minsk. This explains the fact that formally Taimina's doctorate was issued by the Institute of Mathematics of the Belorussian Academy of Sciences. After Latvia gained independence in 1991, Taimina received her doctorate in mathematics from the University of Latvia
University of Latvia
University of Latvia is a university located in Riga, Latvia. Being established in 1919, University of Latvia is the biggest university in the Baltic states.-History:...

, where she taught for 20 years.

Daina Taimina joined the Cornell Math Department in December 1996. While attending a geometry workshop in 1997, she saw fragile paper models of hyperbolic planes, designed by geometer William Thurston
William Thurston
William Paul Thurston is an American mathematician. He is a pioneer in the field of low-dimensional topology. In 1982, he was awarded the Fields Medal for his contributions to the study of 3-manifolds...

. She decided to make more durable models, and did so by crocheting them. Due to her success in this she was invited, together with her husband David Henderson, a math professor also at Cornell, to give a presentation at a Cornell workshop.
Crocheted mathematical models later appeared in three geometry textbooks they wrote together, of which the most popular is Experiencing Geometry: Euclidean and non-Euclidean with History.

An article about Taimina's innovation in New Scientist
New Scientist
New Scientist is a weekly non-peer-reviewed English-language international science magazine, which since 1996 has also run a website, covering recent developments in science and technology for a general audience. Founded in 1956, it is published by Reed Business Information Ltd, a subsidiary of...

was spotted by the Institute For Figuring
Institute For Figuring
The Institute For Figuring is an organization based in Los Angeles, California that promotes the public understanding of the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and the technical arts...

, a small non-profit organisation based in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, and she was invited to speak about hyperbolic space and its connections with nature to a general audience which included artists and movie producers. Taimina's initial lecture and following other public presentations sparked great interest in this new tactile way of exploring concepts of hyperbolic geometry, making this advanced topic accessible to wide audiences. Originally creating purely mathematical models, Taimina soon became popular as a fiber artist and public presenter for general audiences of ages 5 and up. In June 2005, her work was first shown as art in an exhibition "Not The Knitting You Know" at Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space, an art gallery in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

  Since then she has participated regularly in various shows in galleries in US, UK, Latvia, Italy, Belgium, Ireland. Her artwork is in the collections of several private collectors, colleges and universities, and has been included in the American Mathematical Model Collection of the Smithsonian Museum, Cooper–Hewitt, National Design Museum, and Institut Henri Poincaré
Institut Henri Poincaré
The Institut Henri Poincaré is a mathematical institute in Paris which has established itself over its eighty year history as an important meeting place for French and international mathematicians and theoretical physicists...

.

Her work has received wide interest in media. It has been written about in 'Knit Theory' in Discover magazine. The Times (Alex Belos “How Crochet Solved age-old Math Problem”, The Times, July 1, 2008 ) Margaret Wertheim interviewed Daina Taimina and David Henderson for Cabinet Magazine
Later, the Institute For Figuring published a brochure "A Field Guide to Hyperbolic Space". In 2005 the IFF decided that to incorporate Taimina's ideas and approach of explaining hyperbolic space in their mission of popularizing mathematics, and curated an exhibition at Machine Project gallery, which was the subject of a piece in the Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

.
Taimina's way of exploring hyperbolic space via crochet and connections with nature, combatting math phobia, was adapted by Margaret Wertheim in her talks and became highly successful in the IFF-curated Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project.

Taimina's book "Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes" (A K Peters, Ltd.
A K Peters, Ltd.
A K Peters, Ltd. is a publisher of scientific and technical books, specializing in mathematics and in computer graphics, robotics, and other fields of computer science. They publish the journals Experimental Mathematics, Internet Mathematics, and the Journal of Graphics Tools. The company was...

, 2009, ISBN 9781568814520) won the 2009 Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year
Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year
The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year, originally known as the Diagram Group Prize for the Oddest Title at the Frankfurt Book Fair, commonly known as the Diagram Prize for short, is a humorous literary award that is given annually to the book with the oddest title...

.

External links

  • Personal web page at Cornell University
    Cornell University
    Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

    .

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