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Mathematicians: An Outer View of the Inner World – John Horton Conway

Mariana Cook’s book Mathematicians: An Outer View of the Inner World was published by Princeton University Press in 2009 and is a remarkable collection of ninety-two photographic portraits featuring many of the most notable mathematicians of our time. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief personal essay either written by the mathematician or edited from an interview Cook conducted with him or her. For more information, please visit Mariana Cook’s website:

Conway, John ©Cook

John Horton Conway - Photos and Text ©Mariana Cook “Mathematicians: An Outer View of the Inner World”

More than a century ago, a great German mathematician by the name of Cantor discovered the theory of infinite numbers. Two thousand years ago, Archimedes founded the theory of real numbers that we normally use. The “surreal numbers” include both. When I discovered them, I went around in a permanent daydream for six weeks thinking about how the explorer Cortez looked out over the Pacific and saw a world that no Westerner had ever seen before. Nobody had ever seen what I saw before. Although it was totally abstract, it was very real. Abstract things can be real. Numbers can be realer than physical objects. It was an amazing new world of numbers that I discovered, more than numbers.


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Mariana Cook

    MARIANA COOK is a fine art photographer whose work is held in numerous institutional and private collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York City; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Bibliothèque Nationale and Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris; and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC. Ten books of her work have been published, including the best-selling Fathers and Daughters (1994) and the most recent, Justice: Faces of the Human Rights Revolution (2013). Stone Walls: Personal Boundaries was her first book of landscapes, which was released in 2011 to much acclaim. Her website is