There is a fine tradition of mathematicians with mathematics on their tombstones. What immediately springs to mind is Ludolph Van Ceulen and Jacob Bernoulli. Van Ceulen calculated $\pi$ to 35 decimal places; his grave carried both his lower bound of 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288 and his upper bound of 3.14159265358979323846264338327950289. Bernoulli asked for a logarithmic spiral on his gravestone, but the stonemasons etched an Archimedean spiral instead. Googling to fill in the details in my hazy memory, I discovered a blog post by Dave Richeson with the details of several more mathematical monuments.
Into this fine tradition steps Angela Robinson, widow of Shell numerical analyst and Sudoku enthusiast Allan Robinson.
After Allan died last year she chose to mark his gravestone with a Sudoku puzzle and the mathematical notation “$x_n+y_ih \qquad i=1(1)q$”, as a tribute. Now, according to the BBC, Farndon Parish Council (near Chester) has said the grave breached the standards for St Chad’s church graveyard and demanded the removal of the offending Sudoku and equation.
I don’t know quite how to feel about this. The graveyard has rules, and they weren’t obeyed. However, the tribute seems subtle and inoffensive1 , which makes you wonder about the detail of these rules. Anyway, it’s nice to see maths being treated in various tabloids in such a positive light, as a tribute to the achievements of Mr. Robinson — and not a “boffin” in sight!
The Council are due to discuss the matter next month.
Farndon Parish Council orders Sudoku grave to be removed at BBC News.
Grieving widow told by ‘jobsworth’ council to remove Sudoku puzzle from husband’s grave in the Daily Star.
Sudoku puzzle on husband’s gravestone must be removed, grieving widow told in the Mirror.
It doesn’t add up! Family’s anger after council orders them to remove ‘offensive’ sudoku headstone tribute to late father mathematician in the Daily Mail.
What do you want on your tombstone? at Division by Zero, Dave Richeson’s blog.
via Penny Gaines on Twitter.
- Because we’re poor and not near Farndon, we can’t include an image of the gravestone here. There are plenty in the sources linked under ‘More information’. The Mail carries the largest closeup. [↩]