Donald Coxeter: The Man who Saved Geometry

Siobhan Roberts
Renaissance Banff: Mathematics, Music, Art, Culture (2005)
Pages 393–402


Siobhan Roberts met Donald Coxeter when she was a journalist at the National Post and writing a profile on the greatest living classical geometer. Shortly thereafter, she followed Coxeter to the last two geometry conferences he would attend — at Banff, Alberta, and then at Budapest, Hungary, in 2002 for a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of János Bolyai (1802-1860), one of the discoverers of non-Euclidean geometry. Coxeter inspired many mathematicians over his long career. Roberts was similarly entranced by the man and his geometry, notwithstanding the fact that she was a geometrical innocent. Four years later, she is completing her biography of Coxeter. It is to be published by Penguin in Canada and Walker & Company (Bloomsbury) in the United States (as well as publishers in Italy, Japan, and Korea), in the fall of 2006. This piece is an excerpt from the introduction to the Coxeter biography.