Men of Modern Mathematics Lives!

by Steve Wildstrom   |   April 5th, 2012

In 1961, IBM commissioned designers Charles and Ray Eames to assemble a museum exhibition entitled “Mathematica: A World of Numbers …. And Beyond.” It was widely seen, probably most widely in a display at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. In 1966, much of the exhibit was condensed into a 2-foot by 12-foot poster called Men of Modern Mathematics that displayed a detailed timeline of mathematical discovery from 1000 to 1950. (I was lucky enough to cadge two of the now-rare posters from IBM; one hangs in my math teacher wife’s classroom, the other in my math professor son’s

Photo of poster

Section of the original poster (Photo: computerhistory.org)

home.)

Now the poster and the exhibit has been gloriously reborn as a free iPad app from IBM, renamed “Minds of Modern Mathematics.” (Despite the political correction of the title, the great algebraist  Emmy Noether still appears to be the only woman to make the cut.) The app contains a facsimile of the original poster, plus an interactive reconstruction that includes the same contents, but where tapping on each item reveals considerably more information.

The app also includes nine wonderful Eames short animated videos on mathematical topics.

If you, or your kids, have the slightest interest in math, download this app. And be grateful to IBM and Charles and Ray Eames for the original exhibit, and to the Eames Office for making the content available for the app.

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.