MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

Home All New Browse Search About

...
Breaking the Code (1986)
Hugh Whitemore (playwright)
Highly Rated!
Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for math majors, math grad students (and maybe even math professors) and literati.

This biography of Alan Turing is a "character study" of this fascinating mathematician. Although we do see some mathematics (including an especially nice description of Gödel's Theorem and its mathematical significance) the main focus of the play is Turing's sexual orientation and the way in which it broke the moral code of his society.
In addition to being produced at London's West End and New York's Broadway theatre districts, the play was broadcast on TV as part of the Masterpiece Theatre series.

Contributed by Rachel Barkley

Alan Turing iterates that it wasn't breaking the code that mattered but what one did afterwards with his life. However, due to society's social standards, he asserts that he "should've stuck to the rules." This play shows how greatness is often stunted by conformity. For Turing, math lead him to greatness, although no one knew of his contribution to the war effort after his death.

This play (and movie) also addresses the differences between the machine--the electronic brain-- and the human, who has "a failing memory...faculties fade, the body disintegrates, the mind crumbles." Without the machine to break the German Enigma, the war might not have be won, and without Turing, a mathematician, the machine might have never even existed.

This is a fast read for anyone who would like to understand more about math's, and more specifically, Turing's role in WWII. It is certainly one of my favorite works of mathematical fiction. I highly recommend it!

More information about this work can be found at www.turing.org.uk.
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Breaking the Code
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Lovesong of the Electric Bear by Snoo Wilson (playwright)
  2. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin
  3. Enigma by Robert Harris / Tom Stoppard
  4. Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
  5. D'Alembert's Principle: A Novel in Three Panels by Andrew Crumey
  6. Infinity by Patricia Broderick
  7. Oracle by Greg Egan
  8. Twenty-seven Uses for Imaginary Numbers by Buzz Mauro
  9. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis
  10. Tangents by Greg Bear
Ratings for Breaking the Code:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
3.22/5 (9 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
4.25/5 (8 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHistorical Fiction,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Gödel, Turing,
TopicComputers/Cryptography,
MediumTelevision Series or Episode, Plays,

Home All New Browse Search About

Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)