On Friday, April 10, 2009 at 2:00 p.m., a special invited lecture will take place
in the Topping Room of the Old Chapel as part of this year’s induction ceremony
of the Randolph-Macon College chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics
honor society. Entitled “A Journey into Mathematical Art,” the lecture will be given
by the nationally recognized mathematical expositor Ivars Peterson.
From Fibonacci numbers and the digits of pi to tetrahedra, fractals, and Möbius
strips, mathematics has inspired a wide variety of artists. Many people are familiar
with the work of M. C. Escher and aware of the intertwining of math and art during
the Renaissance, but the realm of mathematical art is far wider and more diverse
than most people realize. An illustrated survey of contemporary math-related art
illuminates these rich interactions.
Ivars Peterson is director of publications for journals and communications at the
Mathematical Association of America in Washington, D.C. For more than 25 years previously,
he was a writer at Science News. He also served as editor of Science News
for Kids and Science News Online and wrote the weekly online column
Ivars Peterson’s MathTrek.
Ivars Peterson received his education from the University of Toronto, where he earned
a Bachelor of Science degree (majoring in physics and chemistry) and a Bachelor
of Education degree. He taught high school science and mathematics for eight years.
In 1980, he left teaching to obtain a master’s degree in journalism from the University
of Missouri in Columbia. He served as an intern at Science News in Washington,
D.C. and then joined the weekly magazine’s staff.
Peterson’s first book, The Mathematical Tourist: Snapshots of Modern Mathematics
(W.H. Freeman, 1988; rev. ed., 1998), was widely and favorably reviewed. He followed
up that success with Islands of Truth: A Mathematical Mystery Cruise (W.H.
Freeman, 1990), Newton’s Clock: Chaos in the Solar System (W.H. Freeman,
1993), Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs (Times Books, 1995), The
Jungles of Randomness: A Mathematical Safari (Wiley, 1998), Fragments of Infinity:
A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art (Wiley, 2001), and Mathematical Treks: From Surreal
Numbers to Magic Circles (Mathematical Association of America, 2002).
He has collaborated with his wife, Nancy Henderson, on two books introducing selected
topics in contemporary mathematics to children of middle-school age: Math Trek: Adventures
in the MathZone (Wiley, 2000) and Math Trek 2: A Mathematical Space Odyssey
(Wiley, 2001). For more than 10 years, he wrote the “Math Page” column for the children’s
In 1991, Ivars Peterson received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications
Award recognizing him for his “exceptional ability and sustained effort in communicating
mathematics to a general audience.”
For more information about this event, please contact Adrian Rice at