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Euler's Gem by David S. Richeson

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CHAPTER 2

WHAT IS A POLYHEDRON?

Madame, it is an old word and each one takes it new and wears it out himself. It is a word that fills with meaning as a bladder with air and the meaning goes out of it as quickly. It may be punctured as a bladder is punctured and patched and blown up again.—Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon1

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first appearance of the term “polyhedron” in English was in Sir Henry Billingsley’s 1570 translation of Euclid’s (c. 300 BCE) Elements. “Polyhedron” comes from the Greek roots poly, meaning many, and hedra, meaning seat. A polyhedron has many seats on which it can be set down. Although the term hedra originally meant seat, it has been the standard term for the face of a ...

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