THE GOLDEN MEAN: Mathematics and the Fine Arts by Charles F. Linn

THE GOLDEN MEAN: Mathematics and the Fine Arts

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Can beauty be measured systematically? Linn doesn't try to answer yes or not but he has collected here an intriguing variety of opinions on the subject. Scattered throughout are quotations--often in mutually contradictory pairs--from Plotinus, Aristotle, Aquinas, Durer, Fred Hoyle, Glen Gould and others, and in keeping with Linn's ""announced intention to offer authoritative support for almost any point of view that you may want to consider,"" he frequently builds up an argument only to blow it apart as he introduces Pythagorean and electronic music theory, ""proportions Divine and otherwise"" (in Greek temples, Gothic architecture and Egyptian pyramids), Polya's seventeen (and only seventeen) varieties of repeated ornamental design, or Burkhoff's systematic approach to Aesthetic Measure using formulae and numbered criteria to rate different polygonal forms, chords and even poems. The survey is more far-raching than well knit and suffers from Linn's frequently waggish tone--a result no doubt of his bending over backwards to avoid losing readers intimated by math. (""I'll keep the discussion easy. Promise!"") But he does keep it easy and he does provide a bibliography for those who are up to more rigorous investigation. We'd have to give Linn a low rating for depth, but on balance (of viewpoint) he's way ahead and then there are all those diverting illustrations ranging from Vredeman's perspective studies of 1604 to computer designs and Escher's optical teasers.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1974
Page count: 131pp
Publisher: Doubleday