The Beauty of Mathematical Order

a Study of the Role of Mathematics in Greek Philosophy and Modern Art Works of Piet Hein and Inger Christensen

  • Esther Oluffa Pedersen Roskilde University


Since antiquity mathematics has been identified as a science that allows us humans to comprehend the inner workings of harmony and in Greek philosophy mathematical form is celebrated as an eminent source of beauty. Greek cosmology makes up a principal reason for the strong connection between mathematics and beauty in Greek philosophy. Of course, even in ancient Greece the concept of beauty was not exhausted by objects which can be grasped mathematically. So in a modern context it would be even more peculiar to argue for a necessary connection between beauty and mathematics. My focus is much humbler as I want to illuminate how mathematics continues to have a role to play in certain conceptions of beauty. The two examples I consider are taken from design and poetry respectively, namely the invention of the super-ellipse by the Danish designer, poet, mathematician and artist, Piet Hein and the collection of poems called Alphabet by the Danish poet Inger Christensen.