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Concept# Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter

Summary

Harold Scott MacDonald "Donald" Coxeter (9 February 1907 – 31 March 2003) was a British-Canadian geometer and mathematician. He is regarded as one of the greatest geometers of the 20th century.
Coxeter was born in Kensington to Harold Samuel Coxeter and Lucy (). His father had taken over the family business of Coxeter & Son, manufacturers of surgical instruments and compressed gases (including a mechanism for anaesthetising surgical patients with nitrous oxide), but was able to retire early and focus on sculpting and baritone singing; Lucy Coxeter was a portrait and landscape painter who had attended the Royal Academy of Arts. A maternal cousin was the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.
In his youth, Coxeter composed music and was an accomplished pianist at the age of 10. He felt that mathematics and music were intimately related, outlining his ideas in a 1962 article on "Music and Mathematics" in the Canadian Music Journal.
He was educated at King Alfred School, London and St George's School, Harpenden, where his best friend was John Flinders Petrie, later a mathematician for whom Petrie polygons were named. He was accepted at King's College, Cambridge in 1925, but decided to spend a year studying in hopes of gaining admittance to Trinity College, where the standard of mathematics was higher. Coxeter won an entrance scholarship and went to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1926 to read mathematics. There he earned his BA (as Senior Wrangler) in 1928, and his doctorate in 1931. In 1932 he went to Princeton University for a year as a Rockefeller Fellow, where he worked with Hermann Weyl, Oswald Veblen, and Solomon Lefschetz. Returning to Trinity for a year, he attended Ludwig Wittgenstein's seminars on the philosophy of mathematics. In 1934 he spent a further year at Princeton as a Procter Fellow.
In 1936 Coxeter moved to the University of Toronto. In 1938 he and P. Du Val, H.T. Flather, and John Flinders Petrie published The Fifty-Nine Icosahedra with University of Toronto Press.

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Geometry

Geometry (; ) is a branch of mathematics concerned with properties of space such as the distance, shape, size, and relative position of figures. Geometry is, along with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. A mathematician who works in the field of geometry is called a geometer. Until the 19th century, geometry was almost exclusively devoted to Euclidean geometry, which includes the notions of point, line, plane, distance, angle, surface, and curve, as fundamental concepts.

Coxeter group

In mathematics, a Coxeter group, named after H. S. M. Coxeter, is an abstract group that admits a formal description in terms of reflections (or kaleidoscopic mirrors). Indeed, the finite Coxeter groups are precisely the finite Euclidean reflection groups; the symmetry groups of regular polyhedra are an example. However, not all Coxeter groups are finite, and not all can be described in terms of symmetries and Euclidean reflections. Coxeter groups were introduced in 1934 as abstractions of reflection groups , and finite Coxeter groups were classified in 1935 .

Tessellation

A tessellation or tiling is the covering of a surface, often a plane, using one or more geometric shapes, called tiles, with no overlaps and no gaps. In mathematics, tessellation can be generalized to higher dimensions and a variety of geometries. A periodic tiling has a repeating pattern. Some special kinds include regular tilings with regular polygonal tiles all of the same shape, and semiregular tilings with regular tiles of more than one shape and with every corner identically arranged.

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