John Wallis and Infinity

Sure, Greek philosophers, and other smarty pants after them, talked up a storm now and then about the concept of infinity. But none of it wrote down a symbol for it. So they all got forgotten, except for Socrates. And as we all know, Socrates was forced to take hemlock for not coming up with a symbol for infinity. The ancient Athenians took their proto-calculus discussions seriously.

One day, British mathematician and doughnut lover, John Wallis, was sitting at his table looking at two alluring pink doughnuts. His next door neighbor, Carl La Fong sat across from John gazing longingly at the pink delights. The great British painter, John Hoskins, happened to be there. This is his painting, “Two Pink Doughnuts.” It hangs in the Tate Museum in London, England.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“May I have one of your pink doughnuts?” asked La Fong.

“No, you may not,” said Wallis, “I love pink doughnuts beyond all measure.”

“Would you, could you, give me one pink doughnut if you had three?” asked La Fong.

“No, I would not. I would eat all three. I would eat them just with me.”

“Would you, could you, give me one pink doughnut if you had four?”

Wallis shook is head. “No, I would not. I would eat all four. I would eat them by the door.”

“Would you, could you, give me one pink doughnut, if you had an infinite number of pink doughnuts?”

“No, I would not. I would eat an infinite number of doughnuts.” Wallis scratched his head. “Say, what would the symbol for infinity look like?”

“Like this, you greedy man.” La Fong squished the two doughnuts.

And, lo and behold, John Hoskins painted the squished doughnuts. The wildly popular painting is on display at the British Science Museum in London. It’s called, “Infinity.” Here it is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so due to Wallis, La Fong, and Hoskins, we now have the symbol for infinity. Sir Isaac Newton used it to develop calculus. Now you know.

 

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef, Ph.D.

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

Categories: history, proof you cannot deny | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “John Wallis and Infinity

  1. italiadiva

    I am a math idiot and I never took a calculus class. Therefore, I believe everything you have posted.

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