Hein, Piet (1905–1996)

Pien Hein

Garnet. Credit: Mineral Information Institute.

Piet Hein was an extraordinarily creative Danish mathematician, inventor, and poet who often wrote under the Old Norse pseudonym "Kumbel" meaning "tombstone." A direct descendant of the Dutch naval hero of the 16th century who had the same name, Piet Hein was born in Copenhagen and studied at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of Copenhagen (later the Niels Bohr Institute) and the Technical University of Denmark.


He is famed for his many mathematical games, including Hex, Tangloids, Polytaire, TacTix, and the Soma Cube, his advocacy of the superellipse curve in applications as diverse as city planning and furniture making, and his thousands of short, aphoristic poems called Grooks.