Piet Hein (scientist)
Piet Hein (16 December 1905 – 17 April 1996) was a Danish polymath (mathematician, inventor, designer, author and poet), often writing under the Old Norse pseudonym Kumbel, meaning "tombstone". His short poems, known as gruks or grooks (Danish: gruk), first started to appear in the daily newspaper Politiken shortly after the German occupation of Denmark in April 1940 under the pseudonym "Kumbel Kumbell".
|Died||17 April 1996 (aged 90)|
|Known for||Puzzles, poems|
Hein, a direct descendant of Piet Pieterszoon Hein, the 17th century Dutch naval hero, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He studied at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of Copenhagen (later to become the Niels Bohr Institute), and Technical University of Denmark. Yale awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1972. He died in his home on Funen, Denmark in 1996.
Piet Hein, who, in his own words, "played mental ping-pong" with Niels Bohr in the inter-War period, found himself confronted with a dilemma when the Germans occupied Denmark. He felt that he had three choices: Do nothing, flee to neutral Sweden or join the Danish resistance movement. As he explained in 1968, "Sweden was out because I am not Swedish, but Danish. I could not remain at home because, if I had, every knock at the door would have sent shivers up my spine. So, I joined the Resistance."
Taking as his first weapon the instrument with which he was most familiar, the pen, he wrote and had published his first "grook" (Danish: gruk). It passed the censors who did not grasp its real meaning.
Losing one glove
is certainly painful,
compared to the pain
of losing one,
throwing away the other,
the first one again.
The Danes, however, understood its importance and soon it was found as graffiti all around the country. The deeper meaning of the grook was that even if you lose your freedom ("losing one glove"), do not lose your patriotism and self-respect by collaborating with the Nazis ("throwing away the other"), because that sense of having betrayed your country will be more painful when freedom has been found again someday.
After Liberation, Scandinavian architects, tired of square buildings but cognizant that circular buildings were impractical, asked Piet Hein for a solution. Applying his mathematical prowess to the problem, Piet Hein proposed to use the superellipse which became the hallmark of modern Scandinavian architecture. He advocated the use of the superellipse in furniture making and other realms. He also invented a perpetual calendar called the Astro Calendar and marketed housewares based on the superellipse and its three-dimensional analog, the superegg.
Hein was a close associate of Martin Gardner and his work was frequently featured in Gardner's Mathematical Games column in Scientific American. At the age of 95 Gardner wrote his autobiography and titled it Undiluted Hocus-Pocus. Both the title and the dedication of this book come from one of Hein's grooks.
Piet Hein was married four times and had five sons from his last three marriages.
- (1937) married Gunver Holck, divorced
- (1942) married Gerda Ruth (Nena) Conheim, divorced
- Sons: Juan Alvaro Hein, born 9 January 1943; Andrés Humberto Hein, born 30 December 1943
- (1947) married Anne Cathrina (Trine) Krøyer Pedersen, divorced
- Son: Lars Hein, born 20 May 1950
- (1955) married Gerd Ericsson, who died 3 November 1968
- Sons: Jotun Hein, born 19 July 1956; Hugo Piet Hein, born 16 November 1963
- Grooks – 20 volumes, originally published between 1940 and 1963, all currently out-of-print.
- Grooks 1, Doubleday & Co., 1969.
- Grooks 2, Doubleday & Co., 1968.
- Grooks 3, Doubleday & Co., 1970.
- Grooks 4, Doubleday & Co., 1973.
- Grooks 5, Doubleday & Co., 1973.
- Grooks 6, Borgens Pocketbooks 154, 1996.
- Grooks 7, Borgens Pocketbooks 174, 1984.
- piethein.com Archived 4 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine "For a long time they appeared under the signature Kumbel Kumbell. Here is the reason why: Piet is the Dutch form of the name Peter or Petrus, which means rock, stone, and Hein is a way of spelling ‘hen’, the old Danish word for a whetstone. ‘Kumbel’, or ‘kumbl’ as it strictly speaking should be written, also means stone, though more a grave monument. In other words, Piet Hein, or Stone Stone can, in a way, be translated by Kumbel Kumbel. He originally wrote the second word with two Ls, also later the signature became just Kumbel – the name he is at least as well known by as his own."
- Inc, Time (14 October 1966). "LIFE". Time Inc. Retrieved 4 December 2016 – via Google Books.
- Piet Hein biography Pamono Design
- The game of Hex (July 1957), the Soma cube (Sep 1958), the game of Tangloids (Dec 1959) and The Superellipse (Sep 1965)
- Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner review by Ianlipke, Queensland Reviewers Collective, January 18, 2017
- Thorleif. "Thorleif's SOMA page". Retrieved 4 December 2016.
- Gardner, Martin: Piet Hein's Superellipse. – in Gardner, Martin: Mathematical Carnival. A New Round-Up of Tantalizers and Puzzles from Scientific American. New York: Vintage, 1977, pp. 240–254.
- Johan Gielis: Inventing the circle. The geometry of nature. – Antwerpen : Geniaal Press, 2003. – ISBN 90-807756-1-4
- "A Poet with a Slide Rule: Piet Hein Bestrides Art and Science," by Jim Hicks, Life Magazine, Vol. 61 No. 16, 10/14/66, pp. 55–66
- "Piet Hein Biographical Details", by Nils Aas, tr. by Roger Stevenson. The Papers of the Medford Educational Institute 3.
- "To and by Piet Hein on the Occasion of Piet Hein's Election as the Student Organization's Twelfth Honorary Member", tr. by Roger Stevenson. The Papers of the Medford Educational Institute 2.