Math Monday: Remembering Magnus Wenninger

by Glen Whitney for the National Museum of Mathematics

Today’s column is devoted to the memory of Father Magnus Wenninger, who passed away earlier this year. Father Wenninger was likely the pre-eminent maker of paper models of polyhedra in the world. He had been at it longer than anyone else; his model-making activity began in late 1950s as part of his approach to teaching math at a Benedictine school in the Bahamas. Already by the mid-60s he had written a booklet on using polyhedral models in the classroom, and by 1971 he had published the book “Polyhedron Models,” which included photographs of models he created of every one of the 75 uniform polyhedra. For many of these polyhedra, his were the first accurate physical models ever created.

Over the course of his career, Father Wenninger wrote two more books on mathematical models and many papers, such as this one on covering the sphere with circles. He created models for virtually all of his writings, and many more besides, many of which were virtuoso performances in the art of physical constructions of geometric objects, such as this sculpture entitled “Order in Chaos.”

May Father Wenninger’s life and work be an inspiration to all of us mathematical makers. We close with a far-too-brief selection of other models showing his amazing skill and accomplishments.