Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dodgson's math in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, math lecturer and logician.

Melanie Bayley wrote a couple of articles, one in New Scientist (behind a paywall) and the other in the NY Times, in which she discerns a mathematical satire in Alice. I first heard of her argument in Boing Boing, and it has received coverage elsewhere. Her claims have won agreement in some quarters but not in others (though she offers a rebuttal in the comments). [Correction (May 26, 2010): Peter Cameron, to whose comments the last link of the preceding sentence links, notes that he was not rejecting Dr. Bayley's hypothesis but merely reflecting on it.]

Dodgson wrote some works of popular math (pdf) and developed something called 'Dodgson condensation' (pdf). Robin Wilson's book, Lewis Carroll in Numberland, is a biography that focuses on Dodgson's mathematical efforts. There's also a book by Bernard Patten on the logic in Alice.

Update (March 24, 2010): NPR has coverage of Bayley's thesis. From the comments there I learned that Bayley cites the work of Helena Pycior as having introduced similar interpretive claims in the 1980's.

Update (May 26, 2010): Here's a piece on Dodgson by emeritus Oxford philosopher, J. R. Lucas.

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