a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Name of the Rose (1980)
Umberto Eco

A mystery novel which takes place in a 14th Century monastery by the brilliant Italian author, Umberto Eco. This book only has a small amount of math in it, but I frequently receive recommendations to include it on the list of mathematical fiction. The following description from Mike Melvin convinced me that it was worth adding:

Contributed by Michael Melvin

THE NAME OF THE ROSE has interesting passages from William of Baskerville, who muses that mathematics was the key to understanding how God made the world, if not the labyrinth he and Adso are navigating. If you'll remember, he and Adso use simple addition to figure out how many rooms are in the library, without even visting them! OK, not exactly elegant theorems, but that's how we humans passed from being terrified, superstitious beings to reasoning people. William represented science AND faith in the Middle Ages. If I was a math teacher, I'd recommend it to math-shy students who may need an appreciation of what math has done for civilization.

Another nice summary of the mathematical content appeared in David Fowler's Mathematics as Science Fiction

Contributed by David Fowler

Mathematics appears in more subtle fashion as the maze-solving scheme used by Brother William in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. The scheme is a "depth-first search algorithm" in computer-science jargon, with an underlying mathematical justification.

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(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 The Name of the Rose
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton by Philip Kerr
  2. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
  3. Miss Havilland by Gay Daly
  4. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer
  5. War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy
  6. The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King
  7. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
  8. The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw
  9. Flowers Stained with Moonlight by Catherine Shaw
  10. The Three Body Problem by Catherine Shaw
Ratings for The Name of the Rose:
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 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.5/5 (2 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction, Mystery,

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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)