Bindings in the Spotlight (7)

Photo of Rose Adler binding 'Idylles'

This month we are featuring the French Art Deco bookbinder Rose Adler (1892-1959) and her binding for Theocritus’ Idylls in French illustrated by Henri Laurens (Kessler.a.23).  Accompanying the book, which is part of the Kessler Collection of livres d’artistes and fine bindings, are three pages of notes in Adler’s hand which relate to the details of the binding and the payment involved.

Image of notes in Rose Adler's handRose Adler 2Rose Adler 3

For a fascinating short biography of Adler, do visit another blog courtesy of the American Bookbinders Museum:


Trinity Lends to Major Anglo-Saxon Exhibition

On Friday 19th October 2018 a spectacular exhibition –  Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War – opens at the British Library in London. It will feature material ranging from the 5th to the 11th centuries and will examine the development of written English and the creation of the kingdom of England. Trinity College has lent five manuscripts to this exhibition, but more than thirty Anglo-Saxon manuscripts can also be consulted in the Wren Digital Library. We will be publishing a series of blog posts about the manuscripts loaned to the exhibition over the next few weeks.




Nobel Prizes at Trinity College

On 3 October 2018 it was announced that Sir Gregory Winter, Master of Trinity College, has been jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with Professors Frances Arnold and George Smith, for his pioneering work in using phage display for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals. The Nobel Assembly said:

‘The 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind. Enzymes produced through directed evolution are used to manufacture everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals. Antibodies evolved using a method called phage display can combat autoimmune diseases and in some cases cure metastatic cancer.’

Sir Gregory becomes the 33rd Nobel Laureate to be a Member of Trinity College since Lord Rayleigh was awarded the prize in Physics in 1904, and is the 107th affiliated with Cambridge. A list of members of Trinity College who are or were Nobel Laureates can be viewed here. Trinity members have received the award in every Nobel category.

E. D. Adrian’s Nobel Diploma

Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian, was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physiology, jointly with Sir Charles Sherrington, for their work on the function of neurons. He was a Fellow of Trinity College from 1913, and served as Master from 1951 to 1965. Each Nobel diploma is an original work of art. The diploma, awarded to Lord Adrian, displayed above depicts the Great Gate of Trinity.

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The only father and son to be jointly awarded a Nobel prize were Sir William Henry Bragg and his son Sir Lawrence Bragg, awarded the 1915 prize in Physics for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.  Sir Lawrence was only 25 years old at the time of the award.

Joseph John Thomson, 1856-1940

Sir J. J. Thomson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906, for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases, leading to his discovery of the electron. His son Sir George Paget Thomson was awarded the same prize in 1937 for his work in discovering the wave-like properties of the electron.

Sir James Mirlees receiving his award from the King of Sweden

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was established in 1968 through a donation from the Swedish Royal Bank, and is administered by the Nobel Foundation alongside the prizes established by Alfred Nobel. In 1996 the prize was awarded to Sir James Mirrlees, who died on 29 August 2018. He shared the prize with Professor William Vickrey of Columbia University, for their research on the economic theory of incentives when information is incomplete or asymmetric.

Piero Sraffa receiving his award

Before the existence of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, an equivalent status was afforded to the Söderström medal, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This medal was awarded in 1961 to Piero Sraffa, the leading Italian economist who was a Fellow of Trinity College from 1939 until his death in 1983.

The Fields Medal

The Fields Medal is often regarded as equivalent to a Nobel Prize in the mathematical sciences. It is awarded every four years to up to four mathematicians under 40 years of age at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union. Four medal-holders have so far been associated with Trinity College, including two present Fellows of Trinity, Sir Michael Atiyah and Sir Timothy Gowers. The Fields Medal was awarded in 1970 to the late Professor Alan Baker for his work on transcendental numbers.

A small exhibition about Nobel Laureates from Trinity is currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

Fermat’s Last Theorem

It is now 25 years since Andrew Wiles provided the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. A celebration of the event was held at the Isaac Newton Institute on 1 October 2018, with lectures (all now available online) by Sir Andrew Wiles, Jack Thorne and John Coates. The Wren Library provided a historical context for the day by displaying the first appearance of Fermat’s Last Theorem in print.

Pierre de Fermat famously wrote down his last theorem in the 1630s in the margin of a bilingual Greek and Latin edition of the Arithmetica of Diophantus of Alexandria. The copy with his annotation no longer survives, but Fermat’s son incorporated the conjecture into a new edition of Diophantus which he published in Toulouse after his father’s death, in 1670. Following the Diophantine proposition to divide a square into two other squares, Fermat’s observation reads:

Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos quadratoquadratos & generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet. It is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second, into two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvellous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.

The simple proposition took more than 350 years to prove, and became the subject of a bestselling book by Simon Singh in 1997.

Diophanti Alexandrini Arithmeticorvm libri sex, et De nvmeris mvltangvlis liber vnvs. Cvm commentariis C.G. Bacheti v.c. & obseruationibus D.P. de Fermat senatoris Tolosani (Toulouse: Bernardvs Bosc, 1670). Trinity College Library, T.17.21.

The diagram below is taken from a collection of Fermat’s mathematical writings compiled by his son Samuel de Fermat and published in 1679. This page shows the end of a long letter from Blaise Pascal to Fermat in which he discusses the problem of the division of a stake between two players whose game is interrupted before its close. The table shows the value of shares when two gamblers play, putting 256 pistoles at stake. ‘The numbers of the first line are always increasing. Those of the second do the same. Those of the third do the same. But after that, those of the fourth line diminish. Those of the fifth, etc. Which is strange.’

Varia opera mathematica D. Petri de Fermat, Senatoris Tolosani. Accesserunt selectæ quædam ejusdem epistolæ, vel ad ipsum à plerisque doctissimis viris Gallicè, Latinè, vel Italicè, de rebus ad mathematicas disciplinas, aut physicam pertinentibus scriptæ. (Toulouse: Johannes Pech, 1679). Trinity College Library, T.11.45.