MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton (2002)
Philip Kerr
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A multiple-murder mystery which outlandishly casts Newton in the role of Sherlock Holmes during his tenure as Warden at the British Royal Mint (Watson is played Christopher Ellis, nephew of mathematician William Wallace).

Newton is hot on the trail of coin counterfeiters, till the chase turns murderous, with each victim’s body displaying a coded message. The messages turn out to be substitution ciphers with modifications to make them difficult to decipher (the sequence +1, -1, +1, -1… makes an appearance). Newton solves it and all is well (except for the murder victims and the criminals)

Some excerpts:

  • Newton: “All ciphers, if they are properly formed and systematic, are subject to mathematics, and what mathematics has made obscure, mathematics will also render visible”
  • Newton: “I can assure you, Ellis, that (Brachistochrone problem) was no mere exercise, as you describe it. When no man in Europe could provide a solution, I solved it.”
  • Newton: “Upon his (Occam’s) razorlike maxim we shall cut this case into exactly two halves. Fetch me some cider. My head has a sudden need for apples”
  • “He is a scholar of real worth, for I have seen him extracting square roots without pen and paper, to seven places”, Ellis said. “I have seen a horse clap its hoof upon the ground seven times,” remarked Newton, “but I do not think it was a mathematician”.
  • Newton bowed deeply. “Doctor Wallis, I was not able to find anything general in quadratures, until I had understood your own work on infintesimals”

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Works Similar to Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
  2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  3. The Three Body Problem by Catherine Shaw
  4. Flowers Stained with Moonlight by Catherine Shaw
  5. An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson
  6. Murder and Mendelssohn (Phryne Fisher Mystery) by Kerry Greenwood
  7. The Ingenious Mr. Spinola by Ernest Bramah
  8. The Jester and the Mathematician by Alan R. Gordon
  9. The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw
  10. Pythagorean Crimes by Tefcros Michaelides
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Categories:
GenreHistorical Fiction, Mystery,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Newton,
Topic
MediumNovels,

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