Category Archives: Life

Wide and Broad, or Narrow and Deep?

Lots to choose from, lots to do. Narrow it down, or leave it broad?

Lots to choose from, lots to do. Narrow it down, or leave it broad?

The world of knowledge: it is so broad, and yet at the same time, it can get so deep. The eternal struggle is, do I read a lot about one thing, or do I read a little about many things? It is so easy to get caught down a rabbit hole in search of knowledge, simply out of a curiosity to know in and of itself and not for any practical reason whatsoever. I am sure the likes of Facebook and Google have pretty much given up on trying to categorize me in any one way, since my interests are so wide and varied! One day I am discussing things realistic or impressionistic paintings; the next I am trying to figure out what data structures are and which are best to use with which algorithm; the following day I am busy trying to wrap my mind around the mole concept and what role that plays in my understanding of liquid solutions as I research on things wet plate collodion photography; the day after I am enjoying the adrenalin the Count of Monte Cristo gives me as I turn the pages of Dumas’ novel, and when I put it down, I want to know what quaternions are all about, as I listen to the sweet strains of a duet of a kora and a sitar. I. Just. Can’t. Keep. Intellectually. Still!

But, it got me thinking. Why is it that many books exist that touch deeply on subject specific histories, but rarely do you find a book that will explore what people in a particular time period existed who would probably have influenced each other’s output of whatever creative venture they found themselves doing? So instead of the many spokes models we have of books, we find more connecting rings models of books. If anyone knows of any such books, please, do share. It would be interesting to read.

To give you an idea of what I mean, take a look at the questions below. It would be good to have a book that answers them. And not just answers them in terms of providing lists of contemporaries, but in terms of discussing their work viz a viz that of their contemporaries.

The mathematicians Sophia Germain and Srinivasa Ramanujan, who were their contemporaries in literature, music, sculpture, painting, philosophy, physics, chemistry, biology and theology?

The physicsts Laura Bassi and Galileo Galilei, who were their contemporaries in mathematics, literature, music, sculpture, painting, philosophy, chemistry, biology and theology?

The chemists Marie M. Daly and Jöns Jacob Berzelius, who were their contemporaries in mathematics, literature, music, sculpture, painting, philosophy, physics, biology and theology?

The biologists Harriet Henrietta Beaufort and Marcello Malpighi who were their contemporaries in mathematics, literature, music, sculpture, painting, philosophy, physics, chemistry and theology?

The writers Elizabeth Inchbald and Anton Chekov, who were their contemporaries in mathematics, music, sculpture, painting, philosophy, physics, biology and theology?

The musicians Florence Price and Antonio Vivaldi, who were their contemporaries in mathematics, literature, sculpture, painting, philosophy, physics, biology and theology?

The philosophers Hypatia and Zhu Xi, who were their contemporaries in mathematics, literature, sculpture, painting, music, physics, biology and theology?

The theologians Catherine of Siena and Charles Octavius Boothe, who were their contemporaries in mathematics, literature, music, sculpture, painting, philosophy, physics and biology?

The sculptors Anne Seymour Damer and Antonio Canova, who were their contemporaries in mathematics, literature, music, painting, philosophy, physics, biology and theology?

The painters Marie Ellenrieder and Peter Paul Rubens, who were their contemporaries in mathematics, literature, music, sculpture, philosophy, physics, biology and theology?

This post was inspired by my reading of  Edna E. Kramer’s The Nature and Growth of Modern Mathematics and Sue Roe’s The Private Lives of the Impressionists