MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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In Good King Charles's Golden Days (1939)
George Bernard Shaw
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Considered by many to be Shaw's worst play, this late example of his witty writing may be of special interest to visitors to this site. It takes place at the home of Sir Isaac Newton where he is joined by historical figures including King Charles II, George Fox -- the founder of the Quakers -- and the artist Godfrey Kneller. As Shaw explains in the preface, he considers Kneller to be a stand-in for William Hogarth, another artist who was not born until 1697. His point is to contrast Newton's "rectilinear" view of the universe with Hogarth's interest in curves and Einstein's General Relativity!

Do not read this play looking for historical accuracy. (It is subtitled "A True History that Never Happened".) Little jokes like Newton's attempt to compute the product of 3 and 7 using logarithms, are nothing compared to the intentional anachronism of allowing Newton to discover the eccentricity in the perihelion of Mercury.

Of course, there is more going on here than just mathematics. You might read this also for Shaw's take on religion and alchemy and on the future of women in politics, but such topics take us away from the focus of this Website and so I will leave them for someone else to discuss.

I'm happy to say that this play is available online for free from Project Guttenberg by following this link. Much thanks to George Woodworth of the University of Iowa for pointing it out to me.

More information about this work can be found at gutenberg.net.au.
(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 In Good King Charles's Golden Days
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Back to Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw
  2. Quicksilver: The Baroque Cycle Volume 1 by Neal Stephenson
  3. Legacy of Light by Karen Zacarías
  4. Pythagoras's Darkest Hour by Colin Adams
  5. The Story of Yung Chang by Ernest Bramah (Ernest Bramah Smith)
  6. Fermat's Last Tango by Joanne Sydney Lessner / Joshua Rosenblum
  7. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
  8. Forgotten Milestones in Computing No. 7: The Quenderghast Bullian Algebraic Calculator by Alex Stewart
  9. The Jester and the Mathematician by Alan R. Gordon
  10. Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw
Ratings for In Good King Charles's Golden Days:
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:
3/5 (1 votes)
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Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHistorical Fiction, Humorous,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Newton,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics,
MediumPlays, Available Free Online,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)