Cogwheels of the Mind

"The Story of Venn Diagrams" is a sadly inaccurate subtitle for Cogwheels of the Mind (2004) by A. W. F. Edwards. The first paragraph of the Preface is rather more honest:

I started to write this book with the intention of providing a popular but accurate account of Venn diagrams from a geometrical rather than a logical point of view, with emphasis on the many recent and beautiful developments. But it has been an unruly child from the outset, and my own involvement in some of these developments has kept on intruding. This preface is both a warning about the nature of the book and a disclaimer that it is intended to secure priority of discovery for me or anyone else.

Personal, idiosyncratic, amateurish, and alas often muddled. As Ian Stewart says in his Foreword, "It may not be the most important piece of mathematics ever ..." — a gently oblique way of suggesting the insignificance of the work. Perhaps it would have made a nice magazine article, or a child's picture book? Venn diagrams are quite useful as thinking tools and rhetorical devices (e.g., see Bodhisattva's Brain). Not enough of that application comes through in Cogwheels of the Mind. And it's a red flag when an author attaches his name to prior work ("Edwards-Venn Diagrams", "Smith-Morra Gambit", etc.). Best let others award credit where and if due.

^z - 2014-10-14