Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery

Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery

Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery

Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery


The celebrated mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras left no writings. But what if he had and the manuscript was never found? Where would it be located? And what information would it reveal? These questions are the inspiration for the mathematical mystery novel Pythagoras' Revenge. Suspenseful and instructive, Pythagoras' Revenge weaves fact, fiction, mathematics, computer science, and ancient history into a surprising and sophisticated thriller.

The intrigue begins when Jule Davidson, a young American mathematician who trolls the internet for difficult math riddles and stumbles upon a neo-Pythagorean sect searching for the promised reincarnation of Pythagoras. Across the ocean, Elmer Galway, a professor of classical history at Oxford, discovers an Arabic manuscript hinting at the existence of an ancient scroll--possibly left by Pythagoras himself. Unknown to one another, Jule and Elmer each have information that the other requires and, as they race to solve the philosophical and mathematical puzzles set before them, their paths ultimately collide. Set in 1998 with flashbacks to classical Greece, Pythagoras' Revenge investigates the confrontation between opposing views of mathematics and reality, and explores ideas from both early and cutting-edge mathematics.

From academic Oxford to suburban Chicago and historic Rome, Pythagoras' Revenge is a sophisticated thriller that will grip readers from beginning to surprising end.


When I first proposed the idea for this book to Princeton University Press, I had a completely different kind of project in mind. What was to be a reflection on the triumph and tyranny of numbers in modern societies became instead a work of fiction, a metamorphosis that was only possible thanks to the enthusiastic and unwavering support of Vickie Kearn, my editor at PUP.

I believed that through a fictional story I could more effectively attain my goal of introducing to a large audience certain mathematical concepts and results, some of them rather challenging and with philosophical undertones, in an entertaining way.

All I knew when I started working on the story was that it had to involve the figure of Pythagoras and his doctrines. Pythagoras wore so many fascinating hats—philosopher and mathematician, of course, but also religious leader, political and musical theorist, demigod, and miracle worker—that he appeared to me as the perfect pivotal character for a tale that would be part fact, part fiction, combining past and present, ancient beliefs and modern science, 2,500-year-old mathematics and the most recent advances in the field.

Pythagoras’ Revenge should appeal to all those who enjoy reading about mathematics and mathematicians, from high school students to PhDs. In addition, by presenting mathematical ideas weaved into a suspenseful plot, I also hope to reach those who usually shun mathematics, and to initiate them to the beauty and the power of the “queen and servant of science,” in the words of Eric Temple Bell.

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