Monday, July 26, 2010


Logicomix, An Epic Search For Truth, Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H Papadimitriou, Bloomsbury USA, 2009, 344 pp

 I was attracted to this graphic biography of Bertrand Russell and his quest for the true foundations of mathematics for two reasons. As part of My Big Fat Reading Project, I have been keeping track of the Nobel Prize for Literature recipients and, unless they were poets, trying to read at least one novel by each winner. Bertrand Russell was honored in 1950, but he wrote books about math, logic and philosophy. His most famous book was Principia Mathematica, co-written with Alfred North Whitehead,  which looks way too difficult for me.

 The second reason I wanted to read Logicomix was because I have a secret fascination with math. I loved algebra and geometry in high school and have even been a math tutor. This book goes into the relationships between math, logic and philosophy, making it all fairly accessible. It combines the ideas with stories about the main 20th century players and has pictures! At the end is a thorough glossary of terms and facts about the people involved.

 So I read the graphic storybook in just a few hours. The glossary took almost as long to read as the whole book. In a most intriguing manner, I got the history and development of math and logic all the way from Pythagoras to Alan Turing. If it wasn't for the ubernerds who spend their lives working on this stuff, we would still be living in caves. An occupational hazard is that many of them eventually go insane. I should remember that and take a day off from reading and the computer once in a while.

 I suppose Logicomix is not for everyone, but I am here to tell you that it is not just for guys, though I think any math geek or computer nerd from 15 to 50 would enjoy it.

(Logicomix is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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