Saturday, February 27, 2010

A city choosing a mathematician as its guide to the city?

How cool is that?

What an amazing vision!

Here's the editorial in today's Gazette

Schenectady has federal money for a visitors center, and now, finally, a place. A good one, too, in what is fast becoming the city’s main public gathering spot: Robb Alley at Proctors. And, some interesting, even exciting ideas about what to do there.

... Proctors has been serving as a de facto visitors center, with maps, flyers, and brochures with events, attractions, schedules, etc. It has also been attracting crowds as the winter home of the Schenectady Greenmarket, as well as a steady, daily stream to the comfortable public sitting/performance area around the Muddy Cup cafe. The city will be partnering with Proctors CEO Philip Morris, a good partner to have because he’s an effective administrator and full of ideas.

In this case, one idea in particular sounds good: hire an actor to portray Charles Steinmetz and film him talking about Schenectady and its history, for projection on screens in the visitors center.

Steinmetz would make the perfect guide. Not only was he a brilliant electrical engineer and mathematician who helped turn GE into an industrial powerhouse, he played a prominent part in Schenectady’s history, serving as president of the school board and city council, and the driving force behind the city’s excellent park system.

Steinmetz was a great scientist, but also a great citizen with a social conscience. What better person to make Schenectady’s rich history live for visitors?

I've written about Steinmetz on this blog before--if you don't know his story, it's well worth reading this post: Charles Steinmetz, Mathematical Wizard of Schenectady. He was a mathematician and electrical engineer. (Legend has it that he could "generate electricity from imaginary numbers," because he developed clever algorithms to simplify the calculations for electric equations using complex numbers) He started up what is now the GE Global Research Center in his backyard, he was also a professor at Union College, and he headed the Schenectady public schools and city council as well!

We took our visiting New York City Math Teacher Circle teachers on a tour of his stomping grounds when they visited last summer. Last Saturday, our on-line Harvard-MIT Math Tournament team was named AAMC Steimetz again! in his honor, as it competed in the Kenney Community Center at Union College in Schenectady.

How completely awesome that the City of Schenectady is considering designating his character as a guide to the city.


Katelyn said...

How exciting! I think it would be great to have Steinmetz as the guide to Schenectady and I think all my colleagues at GE Global Research would agree.

Awesome post!

Katelyn said...

Also... you guys might be interested in checking out the GE Global Research blog It is written by our scientists themselves so if you ever have any math questions, you can interact with them there!

And in case you didn't see them before, our Flickr account ( has pictures from this year's MATHCOUNTS competition!