Figuring Book Summary By Maria Popova

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Figuring is an insightful book that explores the connections between some of the most important figures in human history.

This exploration is done by tracing the lives, impacts, and common motivations of renowned poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as inventor Nikola Tesla, and America’s first female astronomer Maria Mitchell.

The book pieces together the stories of these great individuals through time, providing insights into their individual lives, as well as uncovering a secret force that ties them all together.

It’s an enlightening read for anyone who has an interest in history, science or literature!

Figuring Book

Book Name: Figuring (An exploration of the surprising connections between historical figures)

Author(s): Maria Popova

Rating: 4.1/5

Reading Time: 23 Minutes

Categories: Motivation & Inspiration

Author Bio

Maria Popova is an incredible writer, editor, and thinker.

She hails from Bulgaria but as made a name for herself in America, particularly through her blog Brain Pickings.

Through her writing she explores books, art, philosophy, culture and more - making her quite a well-rounded author.

In addition to Brain Pickings, she has worked at MIT as a Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

In this capacity she studied the implications of emerging media on culture at large.

She's written for numerous publications such as The Atlantic, Wired UK and The New York Times and served as editorial director for the higher education social network Lore.

Overall, Maria Popova is an incredibly talented woman who continues to share her knowledge to the masses.

Trace The Echoes Of History: Following The Lives Of The Pioneers In Astronomy, Mathematics, And Science Fiction


In Figuring, readers are invited to explore a world full of surprising connections.

Discover how the lives of Johannes Kepler and Maria Mitchell were interwoven with unexpected discoveries that span over centuries – from Kepler’s vision of the Apollo mission all the way through to Mitchell’s rise as an icon for women in science.

We’ll also learn how Lord Byron’s daughter accomplished great feats as a mathematician and how these figures’ legacies still echo with us today.

This book takes us on a journey that will expose us to many different stories, but it ultimately leads to one central point: we never know just how much reach our actions have.

Through exploring these fascinating connections between famous individuals, you’ll learn just how powerful our human story can be when it comes to affecting change in the world around us.

We Are All Connected In An Inextricably Complex Web Of Existence

“Fate is rarely as straightforward as a single line moving forward in time – it is a weave of endlessly interlocking strands from people, cultures and ideas across time and space.

Human fates intertwine with each other’s in ways unimaginable.

If we know this essential truth, how can we fathom ourselves separately? Every aspect of our own lives – the ideas of Albert Einstein, the cells developing Galileo’s finger, the molecules forming Jupiter’s rings, even the voice we love to hear – all exploded into existence with the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

We are all connected to one source, nothing truly exists alone.

As Walt Whitman once said “Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

This complex web connects us not only through personal development but also by creating great revolutions like equality between genders or races which were made up through many generations and disciplines coming together from uncertainty to make a impact beyond themselves.

How Kepler’S Work Connected Scientists And Writers Across Centuries To Achieve A Dream Of Lunar Travel

Johannes Kepler was the world’s first astrophysicist and his work in the 1600s had an immense impact on scientific theory for decades to come.

As one of the first theorists to accept Copernicus’ heliocentric model, he discovered that planets orbit the sun not in circles, but in ellipses.

He also created a scientific method of predicting eclipses and demonstrated how physical forces move planets and stars through their pathway in the sky.

Additionally, sixty years after Kepler’s discoveries, Newton developed his theories of gravity which refined Kepler’s thesis on physical force.

Much later, mathematician Katherine Johnson drew on Kepler’s laws to help compute the trajectory that landed Apollo 11 and send people to the Moon.

Not only did Johannes Kepler make significant scientific discoveries that shaped our current understanding of physics, but he also predicted much of what would eventually happen with lunar travel – before science fiction as a genre even existed.

His “science fiction” story The Dream is a gentle allegory of reminding us that what we think is ‘true’ might not be so certain after all.

Through both his scientific discoveries and his creative works Kepler was instrumental in shaping future technologies like space exploration and beyond into reality

No One Is Entirely “Self-Made”: How Family, Place, And Culture Helped Shape Maria Mitchell’s Legacy

Maria Mitchell's

Maria Mitchell was born on the island of Nantucket in 1818 into a family of Quakers.

She grew up in an uncommonly loving family, with a very progressive father who treated her as an intellectual peer and indulged every curiosity she had.

Her mother also was erudite which was untypical for the time.

Being part of the Quakers meant that both boys and girls were entitled to equal education – something which allowed Maria to develop her interest in astronomy.

Furthermore, being on an island where mathematics and navigation was a practical necessity also enabled Maria to increase her knowledge in these areas.

During the long dreary winters, there was even more time for her to cultivate her passion for astronomy inside.

All these are factors that led to Maria becoming America’s first female astronomer.

How Beauty, Truth, And Social Justice Interconnect

For centuries, many have seen beauty and truth as intertwined.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one eminent figure who thought of beauty not only in the arts, but also in physics and morals – all part of something essential about the universe.

Galileo’s discoveries were powerful rebuttals to the unscientific dogma of the time.

He found Venus, illuminated by its own light on the far side of the sun, so beautiful that it represented his truth about the universe.

Ralph Waldo Emerson referenced beauty as a language to convey truth – akin to mathematics or physics – with an invitation for us all to uncover what lies beneath its surface.

Maria Mitchell shared this same sentiment, feeling she was subconsciously searching for truth through her appreciation for beauty.

Social reformer Frederick Douglass saw a new kind of beauty emerging from photography that could make profound differences in our world: It could bring real issues into focus and serve as reminder of how far we have to go until we reach true equality between peoples.

All through time, the belief that beauty and truth are linked has been connected with some of the greatest minds human history has known.

The Unspoken Reflections Of Queer Intimacy Through The Ages

Throughout history, relationships that have defied traditional norms have been defined in sweeping and often confusing terms such as “Uranian” or “queer.” But no one label can capture the wealth of love and connection that has existed between different people.

The story of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne is a case in point.

After reading Hawthorn’s short story collection, Melville was so taken with him that he wrote: “A man of a deep and noble nature has seized me…” Convinced they had an unspoken bond, he later dedicated his novel Moby Dick to Hawthorn.

However, when Melville’s letters became too passionate for the more reserved Hawthorn’s taste, the relationship cooled.

Despite their obvious attraction to each other, we may never know what could have blossomed between them due to conventions that discouraged openly proclaimed unions outside of heterosexual normativity.

Similarly, Maria Mitchell had a highly reserved nature yet she was liable to possessiveness and jealousy around her friend Ida Russell–feelings unheard of for Mitchell except in this case for this particular woman.

The public face of their relationship appeared platonic but what drew them together beneath the surface remains a secret only to them.

These suggestible accounts of platonic same-sex relationships tell us that the truth behind people’s amorous natures always transcended whatever labels were put on them due to cultural constraints.

In many cases, these feelings existed within nuanced dynamics exposed by open dialogue between two individuals who understood each other.

Ada Lovelace’s Revolutionary Combination Of Imagination And Mathematics

Ada Lovelace's

The meeting of literature and science was personified no more than in the life of Ada Lovelace.

Born to the Romantic Poet Lord Byron and mathematically brilliant aristocrat Baroness Annabella Milbanke, Ada’s parents symbolized the combination of these two disciplines that guided her throughout life.

Though their marriage was fruitless, Ada inherited both passions and carried on her own style of creativity, combining them knew how to navigate both worlds confidently.

Not only did she design a flying machine as a teenager against society‘s constraints, but she fulfilled her father Byron’s wishes and truly blended passion for literature and math when she co-created the Analytical Engine – now considered the world’s prototype computer – with Charles Babbage at age 19.

By writing her own 65 page annotations to Babbage’s scientific paper “Sketch of an Analytical Engine,” which included not only mathematical formulae but imagination, Ada Lovelace made it plausible for computers with actual programs to exist for future generations.

Ada Lovelace most certainly achieved this goal – showing us all that sometimes combining different realms together can result in fascinating invention that shapes our own understanding of reality forever.

Goethe, The Poet Who Brought Science And Aesthetics Together

Goethe was known mostly as a poet, but he was also a scientist in his own right.

Throughout his life, he championed for the relationship between art and science to be seen as one.

As part of his scientific legacy, Goethe has left behind many fascinating contributions.

For one, he advocated for the Latin naming system for clouds introduced by Luke Howard instead of using English terms.

To make even his point on the matter known globally, those Latin names used today like cumulus and stratus can be found in the beautiful poems written by Goethe himself.

He is even partly responsible for Nikola Tesla’s invention of an alternating current motor via one of Goethe’s lines from “Faust” that inspired him during a brilliant sunset in Budapest Park.

All in all, Goethe left behind a surprising scientific legacy filled with imaginative and powerful works meant to bridge the gap between art and science rather than separating them further.

These accomplishments support his argument that the two disciplines could come together on a higher level as friends rather than enemies.

The Tragic Love Story That Pushed Richard Feynman To Embrace Irrationality

Richard Feynman

The scientific mind of Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman was challenged when his beloved Arline fell ill with a rare form of tuberculosis.

While medicine could not offer anything to help her and the world became consumed by World War II, their love persisted as she wrote him letters from the sanatorium in codes to amuse him.

When finally faced with mortality, even a skeptic like Feynman couldn’t deny the irrationality of life.

Despite all of the science that had filled his life, he suddenly reached out to something greater than what he could understand.

In a letter after Arline’s death, he marveled at how none of the other girls around him seemed real, but only she truly was “real” to him.

This proves that even those with seemingly strict scientific views can be overcome by mystical notions in moments of impermanence and all-consuming love.

Wrap Up

Figuring is a book that seeks to uncover the underlying connections between some of the most influential minds in history.

It explores how these influential individuals, whether they are astronomers, poets or inventors, have left legacies that spread far beyond their own discipline, leading to major cultural and scientific advancements.

Ultimately, Figuring reveals that the driving force which fuels these historical figures is a shared dedication to both beauty and truth.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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