MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

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The A, B, C of the Higher Mathematics (1907)
Ramaswami Aiyar
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Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A 1-page lyrical parable about the evolution of calculus through the marriage of Algebra with the concept of Limits (so the tale says), and the birth of its 3 Princes - Astronomy (using Infinity), Biology (using the theory of evolving forms) and Chemistry (using integration of atoms). and thus the A, B, C of the new math thrive, with Newton as their guardian. I wish the author had developed it much further, as it has a very unfinished feel to it.

Interestingly, the author was a very active mathematician who founded the Indian Mathematical Society in April, 1907 and was one of the first mathematicians to have interacted with Ramanujan and indeed, helped him gain the requisite financial and academic footing in his early days (an excellent article on him at Mac Tutor. )

Here is how the cute story starts:

(quoted from The A, B, C of the Higher Mathematics)

“When Algebra, fair Daughter of King Arithmetic, is nearing her age of adolescence her eyes fall on Prince Limit, and there cometh a change upon her. Her tender heart goes forth to him, and in her lithe and nimble frame she feels a torture from end to end as it would fall to pieces. She is in love, and the Prince reciprocates her love. Happily they are wedded. The King gave away his Daughter, the Angels witnessed it, and all was joy. The marriage was performed Hymn of the Transcendent Number and Ratio, preceded by the Song of Limits, and followed by the Chorus of Continuity and Convergence.”

and the penultimate paragraph:

(quoted from The A, B, C of the Higher Mathematics)

“The little Princes love each other dearly as they do their Parents and their Grandfather, and have grown in each other’s love, sometimes playing each other tricks. And now they have gone forth together to conquer the Higher Realms of Functions. Verily they shall have Eternal Life and Eternal Youth.”

Original publication information: The Mathematical Gazette, May 1907 (Vol 4, #64)

More information about this work can be found at www.jstor.org.
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Works Similar to The A, B, C of the Higher Mathematics
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Cálculo Infinitesimal de una variable by Juan de Burgos Román
  2. Cálculo Infinitesimal de varias variables by Juan de Burgos Román
  3. Gulliver's Posthumous Travels to Riemann's Land and Lobachevskia by William Pepperell Montague
  4. What the Tortoise Said to Achilles by Lewis Carroll
  5. An Episode of Flatland by Charles H. Hinton
  6. The Next Dimension by Vladimir Karapetoff
  7. The Universal Library [Die Universalbibliothek] by Kurd Lasswitz
  8. Number Stories of Long Ago by David Eugene Smith
  9. The Strange Case of Mr. Jean D. by Joao Filipe Queiro
  10. The Man Who Counted : A Collection of Mathematical Adventures by Malba Tahan
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Categories:
GenreDidactic,
Motif
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Analysis/Calculus/Differential,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)