The Story of Matryoshka

From the Developer

Finnian Reilly shares the story of how he got the inspiration to develop this software.

Finnian Reilly

Winter 2018

The idea for Matryoshka first came to me during the Winter of 2018 while sitting on a bench in the national botanical gardens of Ireland. I was interested to photograph a tree which had some anomolous blobs, most likely the result of some disease. Trees of course are the classic example of a fractal pattern. I have always been interested in fractals, and in my youth spent quite a bit of time playing around in C++ with geometric fractals as line based drawings. But it never occurred to me create a fractal pattern based on photographic images. However the act of photographing this tree made gave me the idea to make some software that would replicate an image in a fractal pattern. I was thinking about this idea for a full year before I eventually decided to write some code and see how the results would look. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to create an interesting picture, and as the software improved I created many interesting artworks. The images in this website are just a small selection of the 200 or so I created for a private exhibiton for my friends.

I hope you will have as much creative fun using Matryoshka as I have.

Silver Birch Tree

The tree that inspired Matryoshka.


Matryoshka is dedicated to the memory of Frank O'Shea, who was my first computer science teacher. Frank taught maths and physics at Marian College, in Dublin, Ireland during the 70's and 80's. Frank was an exemplary maths teacher who really went the extra mile to ensure that no student was left behind. I owe Frank a debt of gratitude for changing my self perception of myself from a teenager who thought he had no interest, let alone aptitude for mathematics, to a self-confident child who could take responsibility for his own education and started to enjoy maths as a subject. I think Frank would be pleased by the fact that Matryoshka has an educational value related to maths.

Frank was also one of the first teachers in the state to teach computer science at secondary school level and introduced his students to programming with Comal-80 and basic concepts of computer science. At that time it was an extra-curricular subject. (By a strange twist of fate, I later became a drinking buddy with the man that ported the Comal-80 compiler to the Apple II computer, namely Rody Ryan) As I made a career in software development, I owe Frank a debt of gratitude for introducing me to a life long fascination with the art of code.

Frank was quite a character, and liked to play up his status of computer/math/physics geek by wearing a white lab-coat while teaching. He claimed it was to keep the chalk-dust off his clothes, but I suspect he may secretly have relished his geek persona. I only wished he was wearing it in the photo of him that appeared in the Marian College silver jubilee book. A sweater is a bit boring compared to a lab coat, and besides, it suited him ;-)

Frank O'Shea (1941-)

Frank O'Shea was a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin where he studied maths, physics and possibly computer science, and teaching of course. He taught at Marian College in Dublin, Ireland during the 70's and 80's before taking up a position at another Marist College in Canberra, Australia. During his retirement he became a newspaper columnist and book author and wrote for The Canberra Times, The Irish Echo and Eureka Street. His book Keeping Faith: 40 Years of Marist College Canberra was published in 2008.

As far as I know, Frank is still in the land of the living, and it is my hope that he will have an opportunity to read this dedication. As my personal message to him:

Thank you Frank for inspiring your students and sharing your knowledge and love of computer programming and maths. I wish you many more years of good health.
-- Finnian Reilly

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