MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Agora (2009)
Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar (writer and director) / Mateo Gil (writer)
...

A film based on the life of Hypatia of Alexandria. What little we know of the real Hypatia suggests that she was a talented mathematician and teacher (neither of them easy professions for a woman to enter in ancient Rome) who was later murdered by a Christian mob (either because she was a woman teacher/mathematician or because she was an activist for the right to worship the Roman pantheon of gods...it is not clear which).

The film portrays Hypatia as conducting math research, including studying the orbits of the planets around the sun which she first imagines to be circular and later realizes ought to be elliptical. It may indeed be the case that she was involved in developing mathematics. We have no direct evidence to show that she did or what it was she was working on, but it is reasonable to suppose that she was involved in this sort of research as well as teaching. However, this particular subject of research seems extremely unlikely to me. I am sure the filmmakers wished to suggest that she was a genius, far ahead of her time, but I see it as unbelievably anachronistic.

Thanks to John Konrath for suggesting this film be added to the database.

More information about this work can be found at www.imdb.com.
(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 Agora
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Flow Down Like Silver: Hypatia of Alexandria by Ki Longfellow
  2. Hypatia: New Foes with an Old Face by Charles Kingsley
  3. Hypatia by Mac Wellman
  4. Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
  5. Abendland (Occident) by Michael Köhlmeier
  6. A Study in Seduction by Nina Rowan
  7. The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer
  8. Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land by John Crowley
  9. The Ishango Bone by Paul Hastings Wilson
  10. Beyond the Limit: The Dream of Sofya Kovalevskaya by Joan Spicci
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(unrated)

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Categories:
GenreHistorical Fiction,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians, Religion,
Topic
MediumFilms,

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May 2016: I am experimenting with a new feature which will print a picture of the cover and a link to the Amazon.com page for a work of mathematical fiction when it is available. I hope you find this useful and convenient. In any case, please write to let me know if it is because I would be happy to either get rid of it or improve it if that would be better for you. Thanks! -Alex

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)