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The Vanishing Man (1926)
Richard Hughes

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A very flimsy, lazy “story” about a professor who was writing a book called, “Multidimensional Perspective” with the narrator, and in the course of his investigations, found the fourth dimension, went into it and then died in it through an unfortunate accident during re-entry. Ho hum. An extended excerpt should give an idea:

(quoted from The Vanishing Man)

“I remember the Professor - the whole of him —standing over me and talking excitedly. I looked up in a dazed and bewildered fashion : he was waving his arms about, and crying that he had Found the Way: then suddenly he thrust his hand as it were through a hole in space ; for it vanished completely: he deliberately plunged his arm up to the elbow in —nothing ; and drew it out again.”


But it’s so easy,” he kept on repeating; “ easy as winking. Why didn’t I ever think of it before? ”

“Think of what?” I asked desperately.

“The Fourth Dimension,” he answered. “Here have we been fooling around after Imaginary Roots, and Functions, trying to mop up the mess Einstein has made, when all the time the Fourth Dimension was no different in kind from the other three that we are familiar with.”

“But I don’t see."

“No, of course you don’t!” he barked, and settled into the full stride of his lecture-room manner. “ My assumption is that the Fourth Dimension is just another dimension : no more different in kind from length, say, than length is from breadth and thickness : but perpendicular to all three. Now suppose that a being in two dimensions— a flat creature, like the moving shadows of a cinematograph—were suddenly to grasp the concept of the Third Dimension, and so step out of the picture. He might only move an inch, but he would vanish completely from the sight of the rest of his world.”


I could contain myself no longer. “This is wonderful!” I cried. “This is power ! Think of it! A step, and you are invisible ! No prison cells can hold you, for there is a side to you on which they are as open as a wedding-ring ! No safe is secure from you : you can put your hand round the comer, and draw out what you like. And, of course, if you looked back on the Universe you had left, you would see us in sections, open to you ! You could place a stone or a tablet of poison right in the very bowels of your enemies !”

Appears in “A Moment of Time” (1926).

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Works Similar to The Vanishing Man
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Magic Staircase by Nelson Slade Bond
  2. The Dangerous Dimension by L. Ron Hubbard
  3. The Gostak and the Doshes by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
  4. The Fifth-Dimension Catapult by Murray Leinster
  5. The Cube Root of Conquest by Rog Phillips
  6. Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke
  7. The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator by Murray Leinster
  8. Through the Black Board by Joel Rogers
  9. The Professor's Experiments - The Dimension of Time by Paul Bold
  10. The Captured Cross-Section by Miles J. Breuer (M.D.)
Ratings for The Vanishing Man:
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:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
1/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)