a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

Home All New Browse Search About

What the Tortoise Said to Achilles (1895)
Lewis Carroll
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A very short dialogue-story, where the Tortoise teaches Achilles that in the strictest sense of Logic, the process of inference from even 2 propositions to an almost automatically-implied third proposition involves an infinity of intermediate propositions, making it an infinite schema. The logic of that Logic is infuriating and an objection hard to nail down :-). To illustrate this, the Tortoise uses the statements of the First Proposition of Euclid and befuddles Achilles over the next couple of pages. In the end, Achilles proposes that the Tortoise be renamed, “Taught-Us”, and in response, the Tortoise proposes the other be called, “A Kill-ease”...

I am not really certain this is "mathematical fiction". It is more of a Socratic dialogue more than it is a story with a plot and characters, and it is more about philosophy than math. However, I agreed to include it at Vijay Fafat's request.

Original publication information: Mind, Volume IV, Issue 14, 1 April 1895.

More information about this work can be found at
(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 What the Tortoise Said to Achilles
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Sylvie and Bruno Concluded by Lewis Carroll
  2. A Tangled Tale by Lewis Carroll
  3. Murder on the Einstein Express by Harun Šiljak
  4. Gulliver's Posthumous Travels to Riemann's Land and Lobachevskia by William Pepperell Montague
  5. Shakespeare Predicted it All by Dietmar Dath
  6. Battle of the Frog and the Mouse by John Hays
  7. Not a Chance by Peter Haff
  8. The A, B, C of the Higher Mathematics by Ramaswami Aiyar
  9. The Young Mathematician by Anonymous
  10. The Extraordinary Hotel or the Thousand and First Journey of Ion the Quiet by Naum Ya. Vilenkin
Ratings for What the Tortoise Said to Achilles:
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:
1/5 (1 votes)

MotifProving Theorems,
TopicLogic/Set Theory,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

Home All New Browse Search About

Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)