From Publishers Weekly
British mathematician Wilson (Four Colors Suffice
) paints a charming picture of Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, in this slender biography. Skipping over the most chronicled aspects of Dodgson's life with only a sharp side note deriding rumors of his pedophilia as bad history and bad psychology, Wilson focuses on Dodgson's mathematical and educational accomplishments: pamphlets and books on Euclid, an efficient way of calculating determinants, astute analysis of election methods, and systems of mnemonics and ciphers. Wilson also includes puzzles (some with unsatisfying solutions); a number of Dodgson's photographs, for which Wilson labels him one of the most important photographers of the nineteenth century; and humorous and satirical letters suggesting political postulates such as, Let it be granted, that a speaker may digress from any one point to any other point. Though Dodgson was apparently not always a brilliant teacher or writer in his field, Wilson chooses some of his best work for the examples, and any fan of Victorian mind-benders or mid-level mathematics will enjoy the Dodo's witty and eager explanations of logical puzzles and games. 100 illus. (Nov.)
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For readers amused by the antics of the Mad Hatter and the riddles of the Cheshire Cat, the story of their creator’s life delivers paradoxes as delightful as those embedded in his immortal fiction. Wilson explores that life in a narrative laced with the fantasy and puzzles that lovers of Through the Looking Glass expect. But rigorous formulas figured prominently in the workaday life of a university professor of mathematics. Wilson’s narrative indeed details Charles Dodgson’s skillful use of his mathematical skills in defending euclidean geometry and in developing a new system of proportional representation for Parliament. However, many readers will find their primary interest in the way the academic mathematics of Charles Dodgson metamorphosed into the literary gems of his alter ego, Lewis Carroll. Readers will find rare magic, for instance, in Carroll’s conversion of Dodgson’s professional analysis of terrestrial rotation into a whimsical Wonderland exchange between Alice and the Duchess on the nature of time. A biography as full of twists as the capering of the Jabberwocky! --Bryce Christensen