misfit theme

< Previous | Next >

VadimR

Senior Member
Russian
Possibly the greatest mathematician since antiquity was Carl Friedrich Gauss, a dour German born in the late 18th century. He did not get along with his own children and kept important results to himself, seeing them as unsuitable for public view. They were discovered among his papers after his death. Before and since, the annals of the field have teemed with variations on this misfit theme, from Isaac Newton, the loner with a savage temper...

What is the meaning of the bold text in here?
 
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    It means that there have been many examples over the years of important thinkers (scientists, mathematicians who have not been comfortable (fitted well) into their families/society in general. People like this can be called 'misfits', and several misfits amount to 'a theme' (a common strand/idea).
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    It means that there have been many examples over the years of important thinkers (scientists, mathematicians who have not been comfortable (fitted well) into their families/society in general. People like this can be called 'misfits', and several misfits amount to 'a theme' (a common strand/idea).
    And "misfit" is a noun being used as an adjective...very common in English.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'Variations on a theme' is borrowed from musical terminology: the same story, in slightly different forms. The theme could be an aria from Mozart, if it's really music, or in this case it's 'misfits', people who don't fit in. It's not a 'misfit theme' in the sense of a theme that doesn't fit in: it's a theme about people who don't fit in.

    cross-posted
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings

    The writer (who, incidentally?) is using a metaphor from music, with "variations...theme...": in a set of Variations, a single melodic theme is put through several different harmonic, rhythmic and contrapuntal treatments - through which, however complex they may be, the original theme remains continually recognisable to the ear.

    The "misfit" bit is as Chez describes it - Gauss was a socially awkward individual, who did not easily adapt or conform himself to the cultural expectations of those around him. That (the author suggests) is a constant "theme" or strand of mathematical genius' personalities and lives, of which Gauss' own idiosyncratic career was one example.

    Σ
     

    VadimR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Greetings

    The writer (who, incidentally?) is using a metaphor from music, with "variations...theme...": in a set of Variations, a single melodic theme is put through several different harmonic, rhythmic and contrapuntal treatments - through which, however complex they may be, the original theme remains continually recognisable to the ear.

    The "misfit" bit is as Chez describes it - Gauss was a socially awkward individual, who did not easily adapt or conform himself to the cultural expectations of those around him. That (the author suggests) is a constant "theme" or strand of mathematical genius' personalities and lives, of which Gauss' own idiosyncratic career was one example.

    Σ
    Gareth Cook - The Singular Mind of Terry Tao
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top