MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Young Archimedes (1924)
Aldous Huxley
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A couple vacationing in Italy meet a peasant boy with strong mathematical abilities. The most mathematical portion of the text is a discussion of a proof of the Pythagorean theorem which the boy develops. (It is the one where you divide a square into two squares and a rectangle by drawing a pair of lines perpendicular to the edges that meet inside the square and divide it into two squares -- not necessarily the same size -- and two rectangles of the same dimensions.) Warning: This story has a very sad ending.

Reprinted in Fantasia Mathematica. A film version was made in Italian: Il piccolo Archimede. Sandro Caparrini says "It is very well done and quite faithful to Huxley’s story."

Contributed by GS Chandy

An outstanding piece of literature - as a piece of fiction per se; as something that could help us understand (to some little extent, at least) the emotional and thought processes that drive geniuses.

This story, which I first read when I was about 14 years old was, along with E.T. Bell's "Men of Mathematics", what 'turned me on' to math in a big way. Though math is what I'd consider a 'main theme' in the story, there is not a great deal of *mathematics* within it except for a brief discussion of Pythagoras' Theorem. Anyone can read it and understand it, without math.

Contributed by Horacio Maratea

I liked this short story from the moment I read it. One of the things that Huxley made clear is the profound relationship between music and mathematics.

Contributed by Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond

Although I have for long been an admirer of Huxley, I only recently discovered (and appreciated) this story. It is worthwhile pointing out that its theme — the untimely death of a potential genius child — is very close to the one of a short story by Anatole France, untitled "Le manuscrit d'un médecin de village", and published in "L'etui de nacre" (1892). In his story, A. France has a country physician stumbling on a precocious and promising young boy born in a poor and uneducated peasant family. The child will die precociously of meningitis, and the doctor will later recognize his striking resemblance with a portrait of Ampere as a child. It remains to find whether Huxley knew France's work (which would not diminish the literary quality of his work).

More information about this work can be found at another page on this Website.
(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 Young Archimedes
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Geometry in the South Pacific by Sylvia Warner
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. Against the Odds by Martin Gardner
  4. The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti
  5. Batorsag and Szerelem [a.k.a. Beautiful Ohio] by Ethan Canin
  6. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  7. The Genius by Nikolai Georgievich Garin-Mikhailovskii
  8. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  9. Space by John Buchan
  10. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Ratings for Young Archimedes:
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:
2.61/5 (9 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
4.45/5 (9 votes)
..

Categories:
Genre
MotifProdigies, Proving Theorems, Math Education,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumShort Stories, Films,

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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)