Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The mathematician at the wheel

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R.H. Bing

It was a dark and stormy night when R.H. Bing volunteered to drive some stranded mathematicians from the fogged-in Madison airport to Chicago. Freezing rain pelted the windscreen and iced the roadway as Bing drove on—concentrating deeply on the mathematical theorem he was explaining. Soon the windshield was fogged from the energetic explanation. The passengers too had beaded brows, but their sweat arose from fear. As the mathematical description got brighter, the visibility got dimmer. Finally, the conferees felt a trace of hope for their survival when Bing reached forward—apparently to wipe off the the moisture from the windshield. Their hope turned to horror when, instead, Bing drew a figure with his finger on the foggy pane and continued his proof—embellishing the illustration with arrows and helpful labels as needed for the demonstration.

—From a memorial tribute by the University of Texas at Austin

Written by nevalalee

November 21, 2015 at 7:30 am

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