Daina Taimina

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Daina Taimina

Daina Taimina (Latvian: Taimiņa; born August 19, 1954) is a Latvian mathematician, currently Adjunct Associate Professor at Cornell University, known for crocheting objects to illustrate hyperbolic space. She received all her formal education in Riga, Latvia, where in 1977 she graduated summa cum laude from the University of Latvia and completed her graduate work in theoretical computer science (supervised by Prof. Rūsiņš Mārtiņš Freivalds) in 1990. At that time, a doctoral thesis had to be defended outside of Latvia, so she 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 regained independence in 1991, Taimina received her doctorate in mathematics from the University of Latvia, 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.[1] She decided to make more durable models, and did so by crocheting them.[1] 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.[2] 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 was spotted by the Institute For Figuring, a small non-profit organisation based in Los Angeles, and she was invited to speak about hyperbolic space and its connections with nature to a general audience which included artists and movie producers.[2] 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. [3] 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.

Her work has received wide interest in media. It has been written about in 'Knit Theory' in Discover magazine.[4] 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 [5] 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.[6] Taimina's way of exploring hyperbolic space via crochet and connections with nature, combatting math phobia, was adapted by Margaret Wertheim in her talks[7] and became highly successful in the IFF-curated Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project.[8]

Taimina's book "Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes" (A K Peters, Ltd., 2009, ISBN 978-1-56881-452-0) won the 2009 Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year.[9]

Taimina won the 2012 Euler Book Prize of the Mathematical Association of America.

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References[edit]

  • David W. Henderson, Daina Taimina Experiencing Geometry: Euclidean and non-Euclidean with History, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005

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