On First Reading Euclid's ''The Elements,'' Young Bertrand Russell Is Forever Transformed by Mathematics (1st draft)

“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.”

—Bertrand Russell (mathematician, philosopher, author), “A History of Western Philosophy”

*“caryatid”: (ancient architecture) a stone carving of a draped female figure, used as a pillar or column to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building.

**“lemma”: (mathematics) a subordinate or intermediate theorem (i.e., postulate) in an argument or proof.



“Is 'Mathematics...not only [a] Truth,
but [a] supreme beauty—a beauty cold
and austere, like that of sculpture [uncouth
to men for whom this concept is too bold],
without appeal to any part of our weaker nature,
without the gorgeous trappings of painting
or music, yet [is still more] sublimely pure,
and capable of a stern [un-feinting]
perfection such as only the greatest art
can show?'” So, thus geometrized Euclid
(to Russell's youthful mind and fervent heart),
and taught,—by a draped, stone caryatid
at the Library of Alexandria;
whence “The Elements” reigned without lemma!




Sonnet by Ngoc Nguyen The PoetBay support member heart!
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Written on 2020-07-07 at 18:38

Tags Euclid  Elements  Mathematics 

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