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by Steven H. Cullinane
This page was created Friday, August 11, 2000, in memory of Sir Alec Guinness.

"Philosophers ponder the idea of identity: what it is to give something a name on Monday and have it respond to that name on Friday...."
- Bernard Holland, page C12, The New York Times, Monday, May 20, 1996.
Holland was pondering the identity of the Juilliard String Quartet, which had just given a series of concerts celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.

- Page one, The New York Times, Monday, August 7, 2000.
The Times was describing the work of Sir Alec Guinness, who died on 8/5/00.

"I too must dream of some perfected heaven."
- An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth (Broadway Books, Random House, 1999), conclusion of Section 8.5

"At the still point, there the dance is."
- T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

"We have heard much about the poetry of mathematics, but very little of it has as yet been sung. The ancients had a juster notion of their poetic value than we. The most distinct and beautiful statement of any truth must take at last the mathematical form. We might so simplify the rules of moral philosophy, as well as of arithmetic, that one formula would express them both."
- Henry David Thoreau, Section 54 of

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Chapter 8 (Friday)
The worlds of poetry and mathematics meet in a single word, "elegant," used to describe the best of each world. The New York Times paid Sir Alec Guinness a considerable, but deserved, honor by so characterizing his life's work in another world, that of the theatre. Though it is perhaps less than elegant to elaborate on the Times' verdict, a tribute to a poet and a mathematician, as well as to an actor, may serve to illustrate this nowadays ill-understood adjective.
The Poet:
William Shakespeare, who perfected iambic pentameter, lives on in the occasional perfect line of verse, even when that verse is disguised as prose. The line of Vikram Seth quoted above is an example.
Shakespeare's Verse
The Mathematician:
Peter J. Cameron quoted Eliot's line (above) about the "still point" as the epigraph to the chapter on automorphism groups in his book Parallelisms of Complete Designs (London Mathematical Society Lecture Notes, 23, Cambridge University Press, 1976). This book may serve, along with the related web site below, as an example of elegance. The combination of Cameron's mathematics with Hopkins' aesthetics seems close to meeting the high standards (see above) of Thoreau's poetics.
Parallelism in the Aesthetics of Gerard Manley Hopkins
Finally, though it is not written in iambic pentameter, and deals with mathematical rather than musical groups, the following work of P. J. Cameron is not without its relevance to the topic of this memorial.
Classical Groups, by Peter J. Cameron
Related Material:
A Mathematician's Aesthetics

Page last updated December 10, 2000; created August 11, 2000.