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Shooting the Sun (2004)
Max Byrd

Historical mathematicians Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage play supporting roles in this novel about an expedition into uncharted Indian territory to capture the first photograph of a solar eclipse at a time and place predicted by Babbage's "difference engine".

There is a discussion of mathematical education for girls in the 19th century that may be of interest to some readers. The female photographer on the expedition is subjected to all sorts of sexist comments. At one point, someone questions how she could know so much mathematics when it was considered unacceptable to teach any math to girls. She explains that she would play with her dolls nearby when her brother was being tutored and tried to look like she wasn't listening. To further intimidate her, a male member of the expedition explains how he often has to determine longitude by viewing the eclipses of Jupiter's moons; a technique which he claims requires "the calculus" to a greater degree than she could have learned from playing with dolls. (Okay, I know that the moons of Jupiter were often used to determine longitude. However, I was not aware that any calculus was involved. I thought this just depended on the use of tables in books so that anyone who could get a clear view of the Jovian moons would be able to determine their location. Can anyone elaborate?)

The book also suggests that Ada Lovelace and Charlest Babbage were lovers. Does anyone know if there is any reason to think that they were? Alternatively, is there any evidence that they weren't?

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Works Similar to Shooting the Sun
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land by John Crowley
  2. The Difference Engine by William Gibson / Bruce Sterling
  3. Conceiving Ada by Lynn Hershman-Leeson
  4. Quicksilver: The Baroque Cycle Volume 1 by Neal Stephenson
  5. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin
  6. Flowers Stained with Moonlight by Catherine Shaw
  7. Forgotten Milestones in Computing No. 7: The Quenderghast Bullian Algebraic Calculator by Alex Stewart
  8. The Three Body Problem by Catherine Shaw
  9. A Disappearing Number by Simon McBurney
  10. Calculus (Newton's Whores) by Carl Djerassi
Ratings for Shooting the Sun:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians, Future Prediction through Math, Romance,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)