The Platonic Solids
The various components of The Platonic Solids, one of the works on display in the Elemental Matters exhibit at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, represent the earliest visualization of the elements.
The various components of The Platonic Solids, one of the works on display in the Elemental Matters exhibit at CHF, represent the earliest visualization of the elements. Their maker, Rebecca Kamen, explains.
Courtesy Rebecca Kamen/Gregory Tobias
“[They] pay homage to Sacred Geometry. . . . In the process of unfolding, [they] symbolize how these polyhedral forms reveal Plato’s concept of the five classical elements and the particles that hold them in tension and compression,” says Kamen. These solids were introduced by Plato in his work Timaeus (ca. 350 BCE), in which all then known forms of matter—earth, air, fire, water, and ether—are described as being composed of five elemental solids: the cube, the octahedron, the tetrahedron, the icosahedron, and the dodecahedron. These five shapes are the only regular polyhedra—closed shapes made up of identical polygon faces—possible.
Kamen’s piece shows the faces of these shapes unfolded and exposed, allowing the onlooker to see their inner workings. The classical elements are suspended and spread across the wall, almost as if taking flight.
The Platonic Solids have been gifted to the School of Science at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and will be installed in their new Science Building at the conclusion of CHF’s exhibit.