Role Models

On this topic, the ancient, Lucius Seneca said this:

The personality should be provided with someone it can revere, someone whose influence can make even its private, inner life more pure. Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presence but even when he is in their thoughts! And happy, too, is the person who can so revere another as to adjust and shape his own personality in the light of recollections, even, of that other. A person able to revere another thus will soon deserve to be revered himself. So choose yourself a Cato – or, if Cato seems to severe for you, a Laelius, a man whose character is not quite so strict. Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against, you won’t make the crooked straight. – Seneca, Letter 11

Here are my role models:


Jean-Pierre Hébert – A dear friend and creator of endless wonderful works of algorithmic art. In his own words, “works in code and pigment on paper”. His way of life, family and work is a source of much inspiration. I’ve have been fortunate to share many visits, many ideas, and a few collaborations since we met in 2007. Here’s a nice article on his work :

Interalia Magazine, "Drawing is just a thought", April 2016

Kenneth Snelson  – The father of Floating Compression, more commonly known as Tensegrity. He makes monumental sculptures with wire rope stretched tight between giant beams, and they stretch the imagination.

Reuben Margolin – Maker of kinetic sculptures which oscillate and wave. I saw his installation “Math and the night Sea” at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 2006 and I was really knocked out by his piece “Square Wave“.

Tom Sachs – Sculptor, self-described as a “bricoleur”. Maker of endless hand-crafted works of humble materials and imagination. I attended his show, “Space Program: Europa” in San Francisco in late 2016, and wrote a research paper on it.

George W. Hart – Geometer, sculptor, co-founder of North America’s only Math Museum. His virtual and physical works are a delight for the polyhedra enthusiast.

Marcelo Pars – Prolific tensegrity sculptor. Maker of countless forms with wooden dowels and nylon twine. He describes his approach involving lots of mathematical calculation at the outset, prior to fabrication and assembly.

Gjon Mili – Photographer, regarded for his long exposure and strobe light works. He captures moving subjects in dramatic still images which appeal both to the artist and the engineer. Below is a nice article about his famous photos of Pablo Picasso painting with light.

Visual News, "Picasso's Light Drawings: Still Shining from 1949" (May 14, 2012)

Hugh Kenner – Scholar of literature and engineering. His book, Geodesic Math and How to Use It, provides an astounding treatment of many special structures, including tensegrity.

Martin Kimbell – His long-exposure photographs and painting with light is magical. Check out this album of his on flickr. For most of his shots, it looks like he uses a self-made hoop with leds on the rim. He also has some gorgeous lissajous curves which I embed here. Below is a nice article describing his work.

Exposure Guide, "Light-Painted Shapes and Long Exposure Landscapes" (August 25, 2014)

Dave Whyte – Bees and Bombs Maker of amazing animated digital drawings using Processing and more. Here’s my favorite of his, “sphere tangle“. Here’s his official gif guide for the making of.

Simon Pampena – Numeracy ambassador, stand-up mathematician, funny person. His twitter presence is sure to bring a smile.

Llorenç Rodríguez Astor – My dear brother-in-law. Maker of wood sculptures and more. He one made me a great cork oak bowl. When I told him, “It’s beautiful, nicely done”, he responded with, “The tree did most of the work”.

David Neevel – Creator of short form sketches, videos, ads, and more. Uniquely silly.

Greg Jorgensen – Typical Programmer

James Hague – Author of blog, “Programming in the 21st Century”

Chen Alexander – Maker of digital works of sound and image.

Dean Williams – Small scale machinist and repairer of vintage film cameras. I came across Dean through his article on spring making.


Still more role models:
(in no particular order)

Sam Maloof, Constantin Brâncuși, Frank Oppenheimer, Carl Sagan, Bill Nye, George Hart, Salman Kahn, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Cliff Stoll, Carlo Sequin, Dava Sobel, Richard Dawkins, Chris Sacca, Daniel Dennett, Harold Ableson+Gerald Sussman, Casey Reas+Ben Fry, Margaret Hamilton, Casey Neistat, John Cage, Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Piet Mondrian, Bruce Yeany, Destin Sandlin, Simon Pampena, Gjon Mili, Pau Casals,Richard Feynman, Adam Savage, Robert Krulwich+Jad Abumrad, Oliver Sachs, Ira Glass, Phillip Glass, Malcolm Gladwell, They Might Be Giants, Walter Lewin, Griffith J. Griffith, Alexander Von Humboldt, John Muir, Douglas Hofstader, Tom Lehrer.