Harold Scott Macdonald

Harold Scott Macdonald

Harold Scott MacDonald “Donald” Coxeter, CC (February 9, 1907 – March 31, 2003) was a British-born Canadian geometer. Coxeter is regarded as one of the great geometers of the 20th century. He was born in London but spent most of his life in Canada. Major contribution to geometry was in dimensional analogy — the process of stretching geometrical shapes into higher dimensions.

In his youth, Coxeter composed music and was an accomplished pianist at the age of 10. He felt that mathematics and music were intimately related, outlining his ideas in a 1962 article on “Mathematics and Music” in the Canadian Music Journal.

He worked for 60 years at the University of Toronto and published twelve books. He was most noted for his work on regular polytopes and higher-dimensional geometries. He was a champion of the classical approach to geometry, in a period when the tendency was to approach geometry more and more via algebra.

Coxeter went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1926 to read mathematics. There he earned his BA (as Senior Wrangler) in 1928, and his doctorate in 1931. In 1932 he went to Princeton University for a year as a Rockefeller Fellow, where he worked with Hermann Weyl, Oswald Veblen, and Solomon Lefschetz. Returning to Trinity for a year, he attended Ludwig Wittgenstein’s seminars on the philosophy of mathematics. In 1934 he spent a further year at Princeton as a Procter Fellow.

In 1936 Coxeter moved to the University of Toronto, becoming a professor in 1948. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1948 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1950. He met Maurits Escher and his work on geometric figures helped inspire some of Escher’s works, particularly the Circle Limit series based on hyperbolic tessellations. He also inspired some of the innovations of Buckminster Fuller.

Coxeter, M. S. Longuet-Higgins and J. C. P. Miller were the first to publish the full list of uniform polyhedra (1954).

Since 1978, the Canadian Mathematical Society have awarded the Coxeter–James Prize in his honor.

In 1990, he became a Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1997 he received Sylvester Medal from the Royal Society and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Scott_MacDonald_Coxeter
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