Geometry

and the

Imagination

D.Hilbert and S.Cohn-Vossen

PREFACE

In mathematics, as in any scientific research, we find two tendencies present. On the one hand, the tendency toward abstraction seeks to crystallize the logical relations inherent in the maze of material that is being studied, and to correlate the material in a systematic and orderly manner. On the other hand, the tendency toward intuitive understanding fosters a more immediate grasp of the objects one studies, a live rapport with them, so to speak, which stresses the concrete meaning of their relations.

As to geometry, in particular, the abstract tendency has here led to the magnificent systematic theories of Algebraic Geometry, of Riemannian Geometry, and of Topology; these theories make extensive use of abstract reasoning and symbolic calculation in the sense of algebra. Notwithstanding this, it is still as true today as it ever was that intuitive understanding plays a major role in geometry. And such concrete intuition is of great value not only for the research worker, but also for anyone who wishes to study and appreciate the results of research in geometry.

In this book, it is our purpose to give a presentation of geometry, as it stands today, in its visual, intuitive aspects. With the aid of visual imagination we can illuminate the manifold facts and problems of geometry, and beyond this, it is possible in many cases to depict the geometric outline of the methods of investigation and proof, without necessarily entering into the details connected with the strict definitions of concepts and with the actual calculations. For example, the proof of the fact that a sphere with a hole can always be bent-no matter how small the hole-or of the fact that two different toroidal surfaces can not in general be wrapped onto each other conformally, can be treated in such a fashion that even one who does not wish to follow the details of the analytical arguments, may still gain an insight into how and why the proof works.

In this manner, geometry being as many-faceted as it is and being related to the most diverse branches of mathematics, we may even obtain a summarizing survey of mathematics as a whole, and a valid idea of the variety of its problems and the wealth of ideas it contains. Thus a presentation of geometry in large brush-

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