Rigor is the art and practice of remaining fixed on a method or a way of doing things. In politics, it means staying on message. In art, it means adhering to the core principles of that art. In science it means disciplined adherence to scientific method, without taking shortcuts. In team sports, it means executing the game plan.
The essence of genius is the ability to contribute to the whole by departing from established methods: to see what no one else has seen and act on it. Yet it is the genius’ mastery of the discipline that allows her to see beyond it. For example, Einstein understood the prevailing theories in physics of his time but was able to see beyond, transcend and transform them. A person becomes a genius by rigorously mastering the discipline first.
- Masha Gessen, Perfect Rigor: A Genius + the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), about how Grigori Perelman solved Poincare's Conjecture.
- Settimo Termini, ed., Imagination and Rigor: Essays on Eduardo R. Caianello's Scientific Heritage (Springer, 2006).
- Kaoru Nonomura, Eat, Sleep, Sit: My Year at Japan’s Most Rigorous Temple (Kadansha International, 2009).
Technical and Analytical Readings
- James T. Kinard, Sr., and Alex Kozulin, Rigorous Mathematical Thinking: Conceptual Formation in the Mathematics Classroom (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
- Barbara R. Blackburn, Rigor Is NOT a Four-Letter Word (Eye on Education, 2008).
- Betsy Moore and Todd Stanley, Critical Thinking and Formative Assessments: Increasing the Rigor In Your Classroom (Eye on Education, 2009).
Documentary and Educational Films
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Johann Sebastian Bach is widely regarded as history’s most rigorous composer. No one composed so tightly, and yet so freely and creatively as he did. Virtually all of his major works illustrate this point. I choose his French and English suites for keyboard to illustrate it here. French Suites, bwv 812-817 (1722-1725), performed by:
- Richard Egarr
- Helmut Walcha
- Christophe Rousset
- Bob van Asperen
- Pieter-Jan Belder
- Blandine Rannou
- Christopher Hogwood
- Glenn Gould (piano)
- Tatiana Nikolaeva (piano)
- Andras Schiff (piano)
English Suites, bwv 806-811 (1715), performed by: