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Euclid Alone (1975)
William F. Orr

An administrator in the math department of a major research institute has to decide how to handle a paper which proves the inconsistency of Euclidean geometry.

Contributed by Greg Peace

Math is definitely central to this story, but there is not much elaboration of the mathematical concepts (like the reported inconsistency of Euclidean geometry). The story concentrates more on how knowledge of this discovery will affect the mathematical and scientific communities and the world at large.

The protagonist of the story (Dr. Donald Lucus) is in a position to either support or block publication of the dangerous new proof by a young mathematician. In this way, he can be compared to Leopold Kronecker when he was in a position to block publication of Georg Cantor's theories on infinite sets and transfinite numbers. However, the portrayal of Lucus is very sympathetic since he is shown as being concerned with the effects on society of publication. Although history has proven Kronecker wrong, he was also convinced that he was doing the right thing, and probably for what he thought were adequate reasons.

This story can also be compared to the discovery and revelation of non-Euclidean geometry. In fact, a brief reference is made in the story to a Hungarian mathematician (of another name) which may be a nod to Janos Bolyai.

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Works Similar to Euclid Alone
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Division by Zero by Ted Chiang
  2. Continuums by Robert Carr
  3. Four Brands of Impossible by Norman Kagan
  4. The Goddess of Small Victories [La déesse des petites victoire] by Yannick Grannec
  5. Pythagorean Crimes by Tefcros Michaelides
  6. Gödel's Sunflowers by Stephen Baxter
  7. The Strange Case of Mr. Jean D. by Joao Filipe Queiro
  8. Lemma 1 by Helga Königsdorf
  9. Ultima lezione a Gottinga [Last lecture at Göttingen] by Davide Osenda
  10. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis
Ratings for Euclid Alone:
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:
4.5/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (2 votes)

MotifAcademia, Gödel,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Fictional Mathematics, Logic/Set Theory,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)