The M.C. Escher Company
Oct. 4, 2023
Math and art collide in this year’s Louise and Richard K. Guy Lecture Series
This year’s Louise and Richard K. Guy Lecture Series will explore the mathematics of one of the world’s most well-known graphics artists, M.C. Escher. The speaker, Dr. Doris Schattschneider, professor emerita of mathematics at Moravian University, will reveal how Escher pioneered mathematical research to accomplish his artistic goals.
The lecture series, now in its 18th year, celebrates the joy of discovery and wonder in mathematics for everyone. The series was a 90th birthday present from Louise Guy to her husband, Dr. Richard Guy, PhD, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Calgary, in recognition of his love of mathematics and his desire to share his passion with the world.
The meeting of art and mathematics
Escher was a Dutch graphic artist who made woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints — prints made from engraved copper or steel plates — many of which were inspired by mathematics. Imagery in his graphic works uses geometry and provides visual metaphors for abstract mathematical concepts. He was fascinated by and a master at depicting symmetry, duality, reflection, relativity, recursion, dimension, and topological change.
This lecture will illustrate these mathematical concepts implicit in several of Escher's works and outline the transformation geometry that governs his interlocking figures. The lecture can be enjoyed by everyone; a background in math is not required.
The legacy lives on
The man behind the lecture series, Richard K. Guy, was a teacher, colleague, philanthropist, mountaineer and treasured member of the UCalgary community. As a mathematician, Guy was a world-renowned combinatorist and graph theorist who made profound and important contributions to pure and applied math and to the early years of computer science. He published over 300 scholarly articles.
Guy officially retired in 1982. Yet, over 35 years later, even after he turned 100 years old, he still spent many days a week in his UCalgary office. Guy passed away on March 9, 2020. His zest for life and love for community and mathematics live on through his incredible legacy.
Letters for the history books
One of Guy’s greatest goals was to make mathematics accessible to all, which he did through the Louise and Richard K. Guy Lecture Series. Guy also created the Eugène Strens Recreational Mathematics Collection, which is made up of rare books, puzzles, periodicals, and archival material from a variety of mathematicians, including Charles W. Trigg, Wade Philpott, Martin Gardner, William Schaaf, and Leon Bankoff.
Marjorie Rice, whose papers are also in the Strens collection, was an American amateur mathematician who discovered new pentagonal tilings — shapes that can fit together perfectly to cover a flat plane.
Now, Schattschneider, this year’s lecture speaker, is donating her correspondence with Rice over the years of their extensive collaboration. Schattschneider’s donation will complement the collection’s existing holdings in the Marjorie Rice fonds and provide more context to her work.
The M.C. Escher Company
The Louise and Richard K. Guy Lecture Series, featuring speaker Doris Schattschneider, takes place Thursday, Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. at the MacEwan Ballroom or online via Zoom. Register for the in-person event here and online here.
Doris Schattschneider is professor emerita of mathematics at Moravian University in Bethlehem, Pa. Combining her dual interests in mathematics and art, she has become internationally known for her work on tilings of the plane and her exposition of M.C. Escher’s art. Her book M.C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry explores how Escher made and used his drawings of tessellations. In collaboration with graphic designer Wallace Walker, she designed polyhedral forms covered with Escher tessellations that have been published as M.C. Escher Kaleidocycles. She has been active in the Mathematical Association of America, serving as editor of Mathematics Magazine, and received their national award for distinguished teaching. She is especially interested in making mathematics visual, and served as geometer on the project that produced the software The Geometer’s Sketchpad. She is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.