Piet Hein was a Danish scientist, inventor, and poet, best known for his contributions to mathematics and science. He was born in Copenhagen in 1905 and attended the University of Copenhagen, where he studied mathematics, physics, and chemistry.
Hein was an extremely creative and innovative thinker and made a number of important contributions to science, mathematics, and technology. He is best known for his work in geometry, in particular the discovery of the Soma Cube and the development of the mathematical game Hex, as well as the Super-Ellipse in architecture.
He is well known for his poetic form called “Grooks,” which are short, pithy poems that often contain a moral lesson. Each Grook is a few lines long and is usually accompanied by a simple line drawing.
Grooks were originally created during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. Hein used them as a form of coded communication to boost morale while evading detection from the Germans. They were first published in Danish newspapers. They were often reassuring and positive and struck an optimistic chord in such a desolate time. Then, soon after the publication of his first Grook, “Consolation Grook”, the poem was found as graffiti all over the country.
Piet Hein and his Poems:
Hein wrote over 5,000 Grooks during his lifetime, making them a lasting part of his legacy. He was inspired to create them after reading a book about Far Eastern thought, which taught him the power of brevity. His Grooks often make humorous observations about life, such as “Life is hard, but not too hard to bear/If you don’t take it too seriously.” Others express simple truths, such as “The best way to make your dreams come true/Is to wake up.”
In addition to being humorous and wise, Grooks can also be used to challenge conventional thinking. For example, in “The Cloak of Good Intentions,” Hein wrote, “The cloak of good intentions/Is often used to hide/A shabby lack of action.” Furthermore, he also used them to poke fun at bureaucracy and bureaucracy-like behavior, such as in “The Bureaucrat”: “The bureaucrat says: ‘I am/But a humble servant of the State/And my job is to complicate/The simple things in life.’”
A Lasting Impact
Piet Hein’s Grooks are a testament to his wit, wisdom, and insight. He is remembered as an innovator and a thinker who used his words to inspire and enlighten. His Grooks are an enduring reminder that life can be beautiful, humorous, and meaningful, if we take the time to look and listen.
Hein died in 1996. He was a brilliant and creative thinker, and his contributions to literature, science, mathematics, and technology have made the world a better place.