The late James Stewart was a man of many talents and interests.
He graduated with a master of science from Stanford and a doctor of philosophy from the University of Toronto. For a period of time during his three decades as a professor at McMaster, Stewart was also a member of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist.
He became known as an LGBT activist as he helped launch the Pride movement in Hamilton through his own participation in protests and demonstrations and through inviting Toronto activist George Hislop to speak at the university in the early 1970s.
“He was partially responsible for gay rights in Canada. At a meeting he had with George Hislop, this later created the first Pride parade in Hamilton, which was one of the first parades outside of a major city,” said Joseph Clement, the director of the documentary, Integral Man.
It was during this time at McMaster when two of his students came up to him and recommended he write a textbook. His notes were better than what was in their assigned text. After seven years, the first textbook of around 30 was complete and became an enormous success. “Calculus: Early Transcendentals” in particular remains influential for the teaching of mathematics.
The Integral House, one of the primary reasons for the documentary, is a five-storey structure that took 10 years and $32 million to make. Combining his love for music and mathematics, the house is considered to be a masterpiece of modern architecture.
Built around a 150 seat concert hall, this 18,000 square foot house is built into a hillside in the Rosedale neighbourhood of Toronto. Integral curves inspire the complete design, particularly for its walls and stairs. While a resident in the house, Stewart hosted about a dozen events per year.
Though the documentary was originally meant to focus on the house and his accomplishments, and still does so, Stewart’s health began to deteriorate. His arthritis resulted in the inability to play the violin. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. It shows his struggle with the inability to enjoy his loves like he used to, and his last hosted events.
“… he seemed pretty satisfied with his life and what he did. He lived his life without regret,” said Clement.