The Mintegral

by Dr. Denis Gannon
submitted by Pete Schott

The mintegral was created by the immigrant Italian candymaker Latus Rectum, under contract to the British crown in the early nineteenth century in celebration of the birthday of Isaac Newton on December 25. The confection is fraught with symbolism, much of which has been forgotten over the years.

The original shape represents the integral sign, the elongated "S" standing for the word "sum." The red and white intertwining colors stand for the joining of the concepts of antiderivative and area in the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. The minty flavor was chosen to reflect the fresh winds of change which blew across western civilization with the invention of calculus. As a result of this invention, mathematicians were able to solve such burning mathematical problems as the determination of the optimal size of fermented beverage containers and the speed with which effluents were discharged from the famous conical reservoirs of ancient times. The flavor was also used to mask the bad breath of mathematicians who kissed under the mistletoe before the development of Closeup toothpaste.

The break in the center of the mintegral symbolizes the ongoing battle between the proponents of Newton and Leibnitz over the original authoring of the calculus. During the middle of the nineteenth century, the exchange between the two groups became so heated that people often refused to buy the top half (the Newtonian half) or the bottom half (the Leibnitzian half) of the integral. As a result, a French businessman, Rene Ellipse, began to market the two separately. Eventually, the half-mintegrals took on a life of their own and are currently sold as "candy canes." As a relic of the original controversy, an obscure Connecticut law forbids the sale of the Leibnitzian half of the mintegral. Canes wrapped in cellophane and sold in strips are all displayed with the crook in the upright position, the Newtonian half.

Click here for the true story of the candy cane


Handley Math Humor Page

Handley Math Home Page