Approaching the History of Mathematics via the Performing Arts: Kepler: A “Renaissance Folk Play” in Verse
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In 1993, as a graduate student in a history of mathematics course, I was commissioned to write a play about Johannes Kepler.
Or rather, our class was given an unusual final course assignment: to research an area of the history of mathematics that we found compelling, and to express our research findings in the form of a painting, musical composition, poem, or theatre piece – any medium that we liked within the visual and performing arts – accompanied, if needed, by an explication and rationale. Our professor, mathematics historian J. L. Berggren, planned for a gallery walk and public performance day at the end of the course so that we could share what we had made.
My interest was in one of my mathematical heroes, Johannes Kepler, who lived in a time much like ours, where scientific thinking and a faith in the supernatural engaged in an uneasy intellectual tug-of-war. I had also been reading a book to my children (Burkert 1989) that retold a folk tale in the form of a Renaissance verse...
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