Fr. Magnus Wenninger’s Polyhedrons Earn Him International Acclaim


By Abbey Communications intern, Kelsey St John

They say age is but a number.

That could not be truer for Saint John’s monk, Fr. Magnus Wenninger, 94. Born as Joseph Wenninger in 1919, but later taking the monastic name of Magnus, meaning “great”, he is quick with his feet and even quicker with his mind.

Wenninger has been included in various interviews to talk about his polyhedrons and his vast knowledge of them. Almost a year ago, he was asked to be featured in a short video that would be shown at math and science conferences around the country. The 30-minute video had its first screening the weekend of Feb. 1 at a STEM conference at Rhode Island University and was very well received.

“I would like to see [the video]. I could have gone to the conference, but I don’t like to travel anymore,” he said. “I have traveled enough. Now just my mind travels.”

Wenninger is interviewed so often because of his polyhedron knowledge and his publications. He has had one booklet published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which was translated in Spanish. He has had three books published by Cambridge University Press including the book “Polyhedron Models” which was translated into Russian and Japanese. Beside the booklet and the books he has had numerous articles about polyhedrons published in different math journals around the world. Wenninger is internationally famous in the world of math 

“People know about me because of my books,” he said. “My publications are why I’m so well known in other places.”

With a room full of what looks like origami, Wenninger is at peace as he sits at his desk full of paper scraps, a pair of scissors and tweezers. He precisely cuts pieces of colored paper into triangles with specific calculations that will eventually be part of one of his specially made polyhedrons. Polyhedrons are one of Wenninger’s passions and he describes them as math and art. They are solid geometrical figures with many plane faces and are fundamental in understanding the physical world.

Wenninger has a passion for polyhedrons for a variety of reasons. One being that they can be related to people. Polyhedrons have many different and unique pieces, but all those pieces come together in unity to make something greater. He said that is what people should do, come together in unity even though we all are different.

Wenninger’s favorite polyhedron that he has made is called “Order in Chaos”. From a distance it may look like chaos, but within that chaos there is an orderly pattern of pentagons and hexagons. Saint John’s would like to build this polyhedron on a bigger scale in front Peter Engle Science Building as a way to honor Wenninger and his work that he has done.

“I’m in no pain when I sit at my desk and make polyhedrons,” he said. “They are why I’m still here.”


To see a slide show on Fr. Magnus click on: