Piet Hein 1905-1996

Posted by


Piet Hein (1905–1996) was a Danish polymath (mathematician, inventor, designer, author and poet), often writing under the Old Norse pseudonym Kumbel, meaning “tombstone”. His short poems, known as gruks or grooks, first started to appear in the daily newspaper Politikken shortly after the German occupation of Denmark in April 1940 under the pseudonym “Kumbel Kumbell”. He also invented the Soma cube and the board game Hex.

Hein, a direct descendant of Piet Pieterszoon Hein, the 17th century Dutch naval hero, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He studied at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of Copenhagen (later to become the Niels Bohr Institute), and Technical University of Denmark. Yale awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1972.

n 1959, city planners in Stockholm, Sweden announced a design challenge for a roundabout in their city square Sergels Torg. Piet Hein’s winning proposal was based on a superellipse. He went on to use the superellipse in the design of furniture and other artifacts. He also invented a perpetual calendar called the Astro Calendar and marketed housewares based on the superellipse and its three-dimensional analog, the superegg.