Daina Taimiņa

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Daina Taimiņa

Daina Taimiņa (born August 19, 1954)[1] is a Latvian mathematician, retired adjunct associate professor of mathematics at Cornell University, known for crocheting objects to illustrate hyperbolic space.

Education and career[edit]

Taimiņa 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, receiving the title of Candidate of Sciences. This explains the fact that formally Taimiņa's doctorate was issued by the Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. After Latvia regained independence in 1991, Taimiņa received her higher doctoral degree (doktor nauk) in mathematics from the University of Latvia, where she taught for 20 years[2].

Daina Taimiņa joined the Cornell Math Department in December 1996.

Hyperbolic crochet[edit]

While attending a geometry workshop in 1997, she saw fragile paper models of hyperbolic planes, designed by geometer William Thurston.[3] She decided to make more durable models, and did so by crocheting them.[3] 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.[4] 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 Taimiņa'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.[4] Taimiņa'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, Taimiņa soon became popular as a fiber artist and public presenter for general audiences of ages five 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. [5] 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[6] and in The Times,[7] explaining how a hyperbolic plane can be knitted by increasing the number of stitches:

For example, adding an extra stitch in the second line for every five stitches in the first. And for every five stitches in the second line, adding an extra one in the third. The number of stitches increases at an exponential rate. As the lines are longer, but joined together, the material quickly starts to fold in interesting ways.

— Alex Bellos, The Times[7]

Margaret Wertheim interviewed Daina Taimiņa and David Henderson for Cabinet Magazine [8] Later, the Institute For Figuring published a brochure "A Field Guide to Hyperbolic Space". In 2005 the IFF decided to incorporate Taimiņa'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.[9] Taimiņa's way of exploring hyperbolic space via crochet and connections with nature, combatting math phobia, was adapted by Margaret Wertheim in her talks[10] and became highly successful in the IFF-curated Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project.[11]


Taimiņa's book "Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes" (A K Peters, Ltd., 2009, ISBN 978-1-56881-452-0)[12] won the 2009 Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year.[13] It also won the 2012 Euler Book Prize of the Mathematical Association of America.[14]

Taimiņa also contributed to David W. Henderson's book Differential Geometry: A Geometric Introduction (Prentice Hall, 1998) and, with Henderson, wrote Experiencing Geometry: Euclidean and Non-Euclidean with History (Prentice Hall, 2005).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Birth date from Library of Congress catalog entry, retrieved 2019-11-15
  2. ^ "Daima Taimina - info". pi.math.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  3. ^ a b "Body". www.math.cornell.edu.
  4. ^ a b York, Michelle (July 11, 2005), "Professor Lets Her Fingers Do the Talking", The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Eleven Eleven -- Not The Knitting You Know: Daina Taimina". eleveneleven.50webs.com.
  6. ^ "Knit Theory - DiscoverMagazine.com". discovermagazine.com.
  7. ^ a b Alex Bellos (July 1, 2008). "How Crochet Solved age-old Math Problem". The Times.
  8. ^ Wertheim, Margaret (Winter 2004–2005), "Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane: An Interview with David Henderson and Daina Taimiņa", Cabinet, 16.
  9. ^ Pagel, David (July 29, 2005). "Well now, isn't this a cozy little cosmos". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ "The beautiful math of coral". ted.com.
  11. ^ "Crochet Coral Reef". crochetcoralreef.org.
  12. ^ Reviews of Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes:
  13. ^ Bloxham, Andy (March 26, 2010), "Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes wins oddest book title award", The Telegraph, London.
  14. ^ "2012 Euler Winner Announced - Mathematical Association of America". www.maa.org.


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

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]