MATH AND THE MONA LISA: The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci

Bulent Atalay, Author, B. Atalay, Author . Smithsonian $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-58834-171-6

In this readable, if less than compelling, disquisition on the close relationship of art and science, physics professor Atalay uses as his touchstone Leonardo da Vinci, of whom he says in his prologue: "Had [da Vinci] been able to publish the scientific ruminations found in his manuscripts in his own time, our present level of sophistication in science and technology might have been reached one or two centuries earlier." This assertion sets the buoyant tone for the rest of the book. The author marvels at the symmetries to be found in art and the natural world, discussing the Fibonacci series (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8...) and the golden ratio related to it designated by the Greek letter phi (1.618...) with illustrated examples ranging from da Vinci's three portraits of women to the Great Pyramid and the Parthenon. He concedes the existence of asymmetry and dissonance, but chooses not to get into such subjects as chaos theory and fractals that don't fit his harmonious view of the universe. While Atalay makes an agreeable guide, he covers too much ground that will already be familiar to his likely audience. (Apr.)

Foreword: Blurbs from Jamie Wyeth and Sherwin Nuland, not to mention the current rage for all things da Vinci thanks to Dan Brown, should give a boost.

Reviewed on: 03/29/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 211 pages - 978-1-58834-353-6
Paperback - 314 pages - 978-0-06-085119-4
Paperback - 314 pages - 978-1-58834-493-9
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