String, Straight-edge and Shadow

The Story of Geometry

Julia E. Diggins; Illustrated by Corydon Bell


Quick Look

  • An insightful and engaging book which makes geometry accessible to everyone
  • Explores how humans used only three simple tools – the string, the straight-edge and the shadow – to discover the basic principles of geometry
  • Weaves history and legend to explain the discoveries of the most famous mathematicians
  • Visually engaging with over 100 illustrations

This engaging book weaves history and legend to explain the story of geometry and the discoveries of the most famous mathematicians. A useful and inspiring book for those teaching geometry.

Floris Books
Steiner-Waldorf Education; Philosophy of the Natural World
112 b/w illustrations
160 pages
Publication date:
15 Jun 2018


Please note that this Floris Books edition has been revised for UK and European notation, language and metric systems.

From the early peoples who marvelled at the geometry of nature -- the beehive and bird's nest -- to ancient civilisations who questioned beautiful geometric forms and asked 'why?', the story of geometry spans thousands of years.

Using only three simple tools -- the string, the straight-edge and the shadow -- human beings revealed the basic principles and constructions of elementary geometry. Weaving history and legend, this fascinating book reconstructs the discoveries of mathematics's most famous figures. Through illustrations and diagrams, readers are able to follow the reasoning that lead to an ingenious proof of the Pythagorean theorem, an appreciation of the significance of the Golden Mean in art and architecture, or the construction of the five regular solids.

This insightful and engaging book makes geometry accessible to everyone. Readers will be fascinated with how the knowledge and wisdom of so many cultures helped shape our civilisation today.

String, Straight-edge and Shadow is also a useful and inspiring book for those teaching geometry in Steiner-Waldorf classrooms.


'Shows us what we don't realise we know, what civilisations before us learnt and passed down to us. It brings and awe and magic back to our learning… Those that advanced knowledge of geometry had a grounded and practical understanding of where it came from. This book helps us to do that.'
-- The Smart Happy Project

'This was an enjoyable read for the everyday person of curious mind.' -

'Fantastic, accurate, readable, teachable and Classical.'

'The well constructed narrative brings these people and their excitement over these discoveries to life. I learned about the patterns in math from a new perspective and it made me wonder why math is always taught in the abstract format. These people understood it in a completely different way and I would think that some people would learn it better if it were explained this way.'
-- Goodreads

'This gem is about ancient Geometry that has definite application today. Knowing the stories behind many great discoveries make them so much more interesting and really helps math to come alive.'
-- Goodreads

'Whether you are learning geometry for the first time, teaching it to students at home or in the classroom, or are parents helping your children through their first geometry course, this is a must-read for everyone! You will be fascinated with the graphic illustrations and written depiction of how the knowledge and wisdom of so many cultures helped shape our civilization today.'
-- Waldorf Books


Julia E. Diggins (1903--1987) studied mathematics and psychology in Washington, DC. While teaching mathematics in junior high school, she was awarded grants by the National Science Foundation and worked with members of the Maryland University Mathematics Project on the preparation of a new curriculum. She taught 'modern' mathematics for elementary school teachers at the University of Maryland, USA.

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