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Emotions & Math: Rebecca Newberger Goldstein on Orthodoxy, Reason, and Love

math shellWhen Rebecca Newberger Goldstein speaks and writes, her words are often undercut by a slight but unmistakable sense of humor. It’s as if she is perpetually half-smiling at the impossibly contradictory paths that her life has taken.

It’s a humor that belies a deep, malleable understanding. I was able to experience this firsthand when I heard her speak at a reunion for Barnard College alumnae this June. I am just about to enter my junior year at Barnard, but I was at the reunion with my grandmother, who graduated in 1962. We had just emerged from a long and lively discussion with some members of her graduating class, and we made our way to a familiar lecture hall to hear this self-professed “wayward philosopher” discuss her career.

Before I heard her speak that day, I actually hadn’t heard of her at all, something that seems incomprehensible to me now; since that day, it seems I see her books displayed front and center in every bookstore I enter.