Walk Like A Mathematician... In Leicester Uni's Botanic Garden

By David Prudames | 08 November 2004
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Shows a photograph of a fountain shooting water out of a pool behind a statue. The pool is surrounded by trees and greenery.

The Harold Martin Botanic Garden at the University of Leicester. Courtesy University of Leicester.

For those struck down by fear at the mere mention of the word equation, help is at hand in the shape of a new pavement in the University of Leicester’s Botanic Garden.

Intricate paving designs based on sequences discovered by 12th century Italian mathematician, Fibonacci are to be incorporated into the herb garden at the Oadby site.

The new pavement will consist of a shell, a hopscotch court and a pine cone and will be created by the Scenic Blue company of Rugby.

Made from contrasting slabs of four colours of natural sandstone, the numbers on the hopscotch will be those of the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and so on.

Shows a photograph of different coloured trees and shrubs under a cloudy blue cloudy sky.

Courtesy University of Leicester.

The set of numbers was named after Fibonacci, a 12th-century mathematician from Pisa, who discovered them while considering how rabbit populations might increase in number.

For the uninitiated, the series is worked out by starting with 1 and 1, then adding the last two numbers together to make the next, translating into a spiral.

"Many plants show Fibonacci spirals, for example in the arrangement of leaves around a stem and of flowers in a flower head," explained Dr Richard Gornall, Director of the Botanic Garden and Curator of the Herbarium.

Shows a photograph of a paved area with small flower beds dotted around it.

Courtesy University of Leicester.

"The spiral arrangement represents a very efficient way of packing individual growing points (meristems) into the small area of the shoot apex," he added.

"With regard to leaves, it also means that successive leaves do not hide the ones below to any great extent, thus allowing them to capture light more efficiently. Other familiar examples include the scales on a pine cone."

The pavement will be paid for by the Friends of the Botanic Garden, as well as through the generous legacy of a former member.

It will form an important component of the garden’s schools education programme, SEED and will be unveiled as part of celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the Friends next year.

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