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Russell Towle: 1949–2008
by Stephen Wolfram
A few times a year they would arrive. Email dispatches from an adventurous explorer in the world of geometry. Sometimes with subject lines like “Phenomenal discoveries!!!” Usually with images attached. And stories of how Russell Towle had just used Mathematica to discover yet another strange and wonderful geometrical object. Then, this August, another email arrived, this time from Russell Towle’s son: “… last night, my father died in a car accident”. I first heard from Russell Towle thirteen years ago, when he wrote to me suggesting that Mathematica’s graphics language be extended to have primitives not just for polygons and cubes, but also for “polar zonohedra”. I do not now recall, but I strongly suspect that at that time I had never heard of zonohedra. But Russell Towle’s letter included some intriguing pictures, and we wrote back encouragingly. There soon emerged more information. That Russell Towle lived in a hexagonal house of his own design, in a remote part of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. That he was a fan of Archimedes, and had learned Greek to be able to understand his work better. And that he was not only an independent mathematician, but also a musician and an accomplished local historian.
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