138 years ago, this month, English mathematician John Venn introduced the concept of Venn diagrams to an unsuspecting world. This was a terrific accomplishment for a man whose life had seen some early setbacks. Growing up in Victorian England, Mr. Venn didn't initially desire to study mathematics. His first attempt at fame came when he starred in his own one-man comedy show called The Zen of Venn. Billed as the biting philosophical musings of one of England's leading wits, most of the show's jokes unfortunately devolved into weak attempts at observational humor that all started off something like this, "What's the deal with chimney sweeps? I mean, have you seen these guys work?"
Undeterred by his comedic failure, he later tried his hand at running a night club in London called John Venn's Gambling Den, but the ethics of the era made it difficult for him to turn a profit. Penniless and distraught, he was forced to move in with his Swedish cousin Sven Venn in order to sort out his life. It was only then as he doodled on the living room couch contemplating his future that he saw the potential for immortality and glory in using intersecting circles to represent logical relationships.
An example of how a Venn Diagram can be used to simply illustrate complicated arguments.
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