Helen Friel’s “Here’s Looking at Euclid”
Mathematics is like art; you either understand the concepts (i.e., you ‘get it’), or you become completely lost when coming into contact with them. Some people are able to understand both complex theories and expressions in art, and equations that, for some people, look like a bag of numbers and symbols exploded onto a piece of paper. In 1847, Oliver Byrne, a civil engineer and author, published a book called “Euclid’s Elements” which used coloured graphic explanations of each geometric principle. The style of graphics is similar to that of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements, but since the book predates each, it could very well have been an inspiration for the creativity of the modernists.
Fast forward to the present, and a new rebirth of this book’s mathematical illustrations is inspiring paper engineer and illustrator Helen Friel to create three-dimensional sculpture replicas of the exact graphics in the book. The artists’ series, entitled “Here’s Looking at Euclid” (2012) uses the instructions found in Byrne’s book to create tangible mathematical theorems in the palm of your hand. Sure, it is a cool sculpture all on its own, but it is also an amazing tool to help teach people these theorems, especially those who are more visual learners and have difficulty concentrating on a page full of numbers.
If you would like to make one of these sculptures yourself, you can download and make your very own paper model of Pythagoras’ Theorem here.