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Math And The Mona Lisa: The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci [Paperback]

Bulent Atalay
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 9 2006 0060851198 978-0060851194 Reprint

The Nature of Genius

Leonardo da Vinci was one of history's true geniuses, equally brilliant as an artist, scientist, and mathematician. Readers of The Da Vinci Code were given a glimpse of the mysterious connections between math, science, and Leonardo's art. Math and the Mona Lisa picks up where The Da Vinci Code left off, illuminating Leonardo's life and work to uncover connections that, until now, have been known only to scholars.

Following Leonardo's own unique model, Atalay searches for the internal dynamics of art and science, revealing to us the deep unity of the two cultures.He provides a broad overview of the development of science from the dawn of civilization to today's quantum mechanics. From this base of information, Atalay offers a fascinating view into Leonardo's restless intellect and modus operandi, allowing us to see the source of his ideas and to appreciate his art from a new perspective. William D. Phillips, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997, writes of the author, "Atalay is indeed a modern renaissance man, and he invites us to tap the power of synthesis that is Leonardo's model."


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From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“The broad sweep of Professor Atalay's brilliant mind brings us an approach to understanding the Vincian genius that is so insightful, so original, and so well-reasoned that it immediately becomes an essential volume in the canon of Leonardiana. I read this monumental achievement in awe of the author's perceptions.”—Sherwin Nuland, author of Leonardo da Vinci and winner of the 1994 National Book Award for How We Die.

“A masterful examination of the differences and similarities in the sciences and the arts, as embodied by that genius of both fields: Leonardo da Vinci. Professor Bülent Atalay has penetrated Leonardo's mind, in a way that is both highly readable and very informative.”—Jamie Wyeth

“Bülent Atalay takes us on a delightful romp through millenia and across continents, bringing together art, architecture, science, and mathematics under the umbrella of Leonardo's genius. His writing is informed by his artist's eye for beauty, his historian's appreciation of context, and his scientist's love of order and symmetry. I read Atalay's description of Leonardo's The Last Supper not long after having visited the masterpiece in Milan, for the first time since its restoration. His words added an unexpected poignancy to that sublime experience. Leonardo is the prototype for the renaissance man—artist, architect, philosopher, scientist, writer. There are few like him today, but Atalay is indeed a modern renaissance man, and he invites us to tap the power of synthesis that is Leonardo's model.”—William D. Phillips, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Leonardo's Model" May 30 2004
Format:Hardcover
Bulent Atalay takes us on a delightful romp through millennia and across continents, bringing together art, architecture, science and mathematics under the umbrella of Leonardo's genius.  His writing is informed by his artist's eye for beauty, his historian's appreciation of context and his scientist's love of order and symmetry.  I read Atalay's description of Leonardo's 'The Last Supper' not long after having visited the masterpiece in Milan, for the first time since its restoration.  His words added an unexpected poignancy to that sublime experience.  Leonardo is the prototype for the renaissance man-artist, architect, philosopher, scientist, writer.  There are few like him today, but Atalay is indeed a modern renaissance man, and he invites us to tap the power of synthesis that is Leonardo's model.
       -William D. Phillips, the 1997 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem for Leo May 17 2004
Format:Hardcover
Although "Math and the Mona Lisa" addresses art and science in general, at its heart the book is a paean to Leonardo, and a celebration of his works from a unique perspective. The author, Bulent Atalay, a remarkable scientist and artist who has been called a modern Renaissance man, clearly identifies with Leonardo, another scientist, artist, and engineer who was the definitive Renaissance man. This special affinity makes the book more than an ordinary biography, and gives exceptional credibility to the author's views on the ways in which the concatenation and synthesis of art and science informed Leonardo's productions. It is not coincidental that both Atalay and his hero, Leonardo, have produced art that is representationalist, because such work, like science, requires creativity constrained by reality. "Math and the Mona Lisa" is not a lavish coffee-table tome. Instead, it is a compact gem that covers its main theme clearly, concisely, and comprehensively. It is small enough to fit into purse or coat pocket, and light enough to be easily portable. Rather than killing time in queues, waiting rooms, and aircraft, a reader can find, throughout the book, a wide range of thought-provoking statements and allusions, some central and many peripheral to the principal topic of the book. Even readers who are familiar with much of the content of the book may be pleased to see so many disparate ideas brought into meaningful association. Yet the best things, such as this book, do not contain and provide all that we need, but inspire us to think and seek on our own. Good things sometimes do come in small packages.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem for Leo May 16 2004
Format:Hardcover
Although "Math and the Mona Lisa" addresses art and science in general, at its heart the book is a paean to Leonardo, and a celebration of his works from a unique perspective. The author, Bulent Atalay, a remarkable scientist and artist who has been called a modern Renaissance man, clearly identifies with Leonardo, another scientist, artist, and engineer who was the definitive Renaissance man. This special affinity makes the book more than an ordinary biography, and gives exceptional credibility to the author's views on the ways in which the concatenation and synthesis of art and science informed Leonardo's productions. It is not coincidental that both Atalay and his hero, Leonardo, have produced art that is representationalist, because such work, like science, requires creativity constrained by reality. "Math and the Mona Lisa" is not a lavish coffee-table tome. Instead, it is a compact gem that covers its main theme clearly, concisely, and comprehensively. It is small enough to fit into purse or coat pocket, and light enough to be easily portable. Rather than killing time in queues, waiting rooms, and aircraft, a reader can find, throughout the book, a wide range of thought-provoking statements and allusions, some central and many peripheral to the principal topic of the book. Even readers who are familiar with much of the content of the book may be pleased to see so many disparate ideas brought into meaningful association. Yet the best things, such as this book, do not contain and provide all that we need, but inspire us to think and seek on our own. Good things sometimes do come in small packages.
Barry Bressler, Fredericksburg, VA, May 15, 2004
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