a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
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This 19th century work of science fiction concerns an attempt by the Baltimore Gun Club to launch three astronauts in a projectile fired from a giant cannon. The novel mostly concerns the practical obstacles faced by the club before the launch (and the actual journey of the astronauts was taken up in the sequel, Round the Moon). It is wellknown among scientists for the work that the author put into working out whether such a mission was really feasible. Although he was mistaken overall (a missile with its own propulsion is necessary rather than something simply ballistic), some of Verne's computations were surprisingly accurate and impressive for the time. The fact that these calculations were primarily done by the author outside of the novel rather than being included in it was previously my justification for not having an entry for this work on this website.
Frequent site contributor Vijay Fafat wrote me long ago and mentioned this Verne novel in which the gun club president "discusses details of possible geometric ways of communication with extraterrestrials, mathematical considerations of the trip to the moon, orbital recalculations, etc". However, it was not until recently (Oct. 2021) when he sent me this excerpt that I realized the significance of this story to the history of mathematical fiction as an early (if not the earliest) suggestion that the universal language of mathematics could provide a means of communicating with extraterrestrials. (I don't know why it took me so long to realize this...Vijay mentioned it in his original message about it!) The relevant passage is:
See also Love and a Triangle and Old Faithful for other early examples of the notion that math might provide a means of communicating with aliens. Professionally printed versions of this book are still available, but it can also be read online for free at many sites including Gutenberg.org 
Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.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.) 

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)