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The Jester and the Mathematician (2000)
Alan R. Gordon

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A short historical fiction piece involving Leonardo of Pisa ("Fibonacci"). Interesting story which features Fibonacci talking briefly about his rabbit-series/sequence, his abacus-duel with Pisa's foremost abacist (and how he wins using the Hindu/Arabic system of counting instead of Roman), a simple code breaking conundrum and the final enshrinement of Fibonacci series in "Liber Abaci".

Originally published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (February 2000), reprinted in The Mammoth Book of New Historical Whodunits (edited by Mike Ashley) and currently available for free at Google Books.

This is a great story, actually it is a murder mystery with Fibonacci as the prime suspect, and it is written in a very entertaining style:

(quoted from The Jester and the Mathematician)

"Forgive me, Signore," I said, bowing. "I did not intend to cause you alarm. I was intrigued by the object of your perusal."

He smiled. "Nothing to warrant any interest. I was merely counting rabbits."

I looked out upon the pasture again. "Let me assist you. There aren't any rabbits."

"Not now."

"Were there rabbits before?"


"Are you expecting rabbits shortly?"

"Not really."

I pulled my cap and bells off my head and held them out to him. "I think, Signore, that perhaps these truly belong to you."

He laughed. "Well met, fellow fool. My name is Leonardo, son of Gilielmus Fibonacci."

"I am Forzo, the Fool." It was a name. I've had many.

"I was thinking about rabbits," he continued. "What would happen if you placed a pair in a field such as this and in a month they produced another pair, then that pair reaches maturity in another month while the original pair produces another, and so on?"

"I myself enjoy counting sheep, but only when I am stretched out on a pallet somewhere. Why on earth do you wonder about this?"

"The sequence of numbers interest me."

"Ah. You're a mathematician, then."

"Would that I were. No, merely a merchant's son plying his father's trade..."

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Works Similar to The Jester and the Mathematician
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
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  3. The Mathematics of Magic Carpets by Sara Maitland
  4. The Measure of Eternity by Sean McMullen
  5. K├╝plerin Savasi by Ahmet Baki Yerli
  6. The Fibonacci Confessions by Graham Wade
  7. The Divine Proportions of Luca Pacioli by W.A.W. Parker
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  9. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
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Ratings for The Jester and the Mathematician:
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:
4/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)

GenreHistorical Fiction, Mystery, Humorous,
MotifReal Mathematicians,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Real Mathematics,
MediumShort Stories, Available Free Online,

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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)