a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Adventure of the Final Problem (1893)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

This first Sherlock Holmes story about Professor Moriarty (later to be viewed as Holmes' arch enemy) introduces him as a professor of mathematics who won fame as a young man for his extension of the binomial theorem. Unfortunately, like so many mathematicians, he used his genius for crime instead of the good of mankind. :)

It appears that this story is now available online for free at The Literature Page and at the University of Virginia.

Note that there are now quite a few works of mathematical fiction listed on this site involving the brilliant but evil Moriarty. See:

Adventure of the Final Problem (1893)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Russian Grave (1995)
William Barton / Michael Capobianco

The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or the Segregation of the Queen (1994)
Laurie R. King

Moriarty by Modem (1995)
Jack Nimersheim

Professor and Colonel (1987)
Ruth Berman

The Return of Moriarty (1974)
John Gardner

The Ultimate Crime (1976)
Isaac Asimov

The Valley of Fear (1916)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Contributed by Anonymous

Contributed by The Wendell Urth Society: I recommend very highly "Sherlock Holmes as Chemist" by Isaac Asimov from his book The Roving Mind published 1983,page 127. This is a brilliant essay on Arthur Conan Doyle's numerous bloopers in mathematics, astronomy, and chemistry in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Asimov gives devastating examples from nine Holmes stories: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb, The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place, A Case of Identity, The Final Problem, The Sign of the Four, A Study in Scarlet, The Valley of Fear. Asimov writes: In "The Final Problem," Holmes says of [the arch-villain James Moriarty] "At the age of twenty-one he wrote a treatise upon the Binomial Theorem, which has had a European vogue." Moriarty was 21 years old in 1865 (it is estimated), but forty years earlier than that the Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel had fully worked out the last detail of the mathematical subject known as "the binomial theorem," leaving Moriarty nothing to do on the matter. It was completely solved and has not advanced beyond Abel to this day.

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(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 Adventure of the Final Problem
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows by Guy Ritchie (director)
  2. The Elusive Bullet by John Rhode (aka Cecil John Charles Street)
  3. Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  5. Professor and Colonel by Ruth Berman
  6. The Ultimate Crime by Isaac Asimov
  7. The Adventure of the Russian Grave by William Barton / Michael Capobianco
  8. The Return of Moriarty by John Gardner
  9. Moriarty by Modem by Jack Nimersheim
  10. The Problem of Cell 13 by Jacques Futrelle
Ratings for Adventure of the Final Problem:
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:
1.5/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.67/5 (3 votes)

MotifEvil mathematicians, Sherlock Holmes,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)