Jan van Maanen, professor of the history of mathematics at Groningen University, recently presented to the library five drawings which for a long time had been kept in an office in the Mathematical Institute. To avoid them getting lost, as ever fewer people recognise the importance of these papers, it was decided to transfer them to Special Collections.
In 1914, on the occasion of its third centenary, Groningen University awarded an honorary doctorate to Alicia Boole Stott (1860-1940), third daughter of George Boole (he of the Boolean operators), and a self-taught mathematician. As it says in her biography in Wikipedia, she is best known for coining the term “polytope” for a convex solid in four dimensions, and having an impressive grasp of four-dimensional geometry from a very early age.
Chapter 5 of Irene Polo-Blanco’s dissertation Theory and history of geometric models, defended in Groningen in 2007, gives a full discussion of Boole Stott’s life and mathematics, and of some of the illustrations now kept in Special Collections, which were made by her.
The photographs below, made by Dirk Fennema, are very large, so please click on the pictures to get a view of the complete item, and click again for an enlargement.
The largest drawing shows ‘Diagonal sections of the 120 cell’ (cf. Polo-Blanco 2007, p. 150). The strip of paper is about 3910 mm long and 327-330 mm high. It is made up of six parts, measuring, from left to right, c. 1479, 365, 94, 320, 393, and 1504 mm.
Pinpricks are visible in the corners as well as the upper and lower borders. As there was and still is no space to keep such long papers on a flat surface, they have been stored as rolls.
Below are ‘Diagrams of sections of the 600 cell, shewing the system of colouring. Each figure is 1/4 of a shape. Alicia Stott.’ (cf. Polo-Blanco 2007, p. 151.)
The figures are drawn on a strip that is made up of seven leaves, all folded in the middle. Each one measures 405×259 mm; the complete roll is 2775 mm long. The first, fourth and fifth leaves are reinforced with tape at the back.
The next drawing illustrates parallel sections of the 600 cell. It measures 2181×330 mm, and is made up of two leaves, the left one measuring 973×330 mm, the right one 1263×330 mm.
Finally there are two smaller drawings:
Measurements: length 993 mm at the top, 986 mm at the bottom; height at left 646 mm, at right 634 mm.
Measurements: 554×259 mm.
The catalogue description is here.
Groningen’s University Museum has a collection of three-dimensional models of four-dimensional polytopes, also prepared by Alicia Boole Stott.
Its contents are described as:
“No. 1. Models prepared by Mrs A. Boole-Stott, Liscard, Cheshire, England] of sections of cell C120 (at right angles with OR0) and of cel C600 (at right angles with OE0) by positioning in parallel position showing the dissolution of the 120 centres of the bordering dodecahedron of C120 and the 120 vertexes of C600 in the vertexes of five cells C24.
(Compare about the horizontal calibration/graduation: Regelmässige Schnitte, usw.|, Verhandelingen der Kon. Akad. v. Wetensch. Amsterdam, eerste sectie, deel IX. no. 4, 1907).”
Without the glass cover they look like this:
and here they are shown from another angle:
and finally here is a detail of the orange/yellow models at the far end:
The five drawings are also reproduced in our image database, Facsimile.