Synopses & Reviews
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.
Bülent Atalay, a distinguished scientist and artist, examines the science and mathematics that underlie Leonardo's work, paying special attention to the proportions, patterns, shapes, and symmetries that scientists and mathematicians have also identified in nature. 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.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Math and the Mona Lisa sees the transcendant unity of art and science in almost every aspect of Leonardo's life and work. Atalay seeks the consilience of science and art painting, architecture, sculpture, music, mathematics, physics, biology, astronomy, and engineering and the unity of the two cultures. He delves deeply into the underlying mathematics and aesthetics of science and art, paying special attention to the mathematical sequence called the Fibonacci series and to the related notion of the "golden ratio" or "divine proportion" the keys to understanding the unity of art and nature.
About the Author
Bülent Atalay, a professor of physics at Mary Washington College, an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia, and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, is also an accomplished artist whose lithographs have been published in Lands of Washington and Oxford and the English Countryside. He lives in Virginia.