a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Let Newton Be! (2011)
Craig Baxter

The three actors in this play portray Isaac Newton at three different stages of his life, as well as occasionally representing other people. Interestingly, the three Newton's interact with each other, which may be a reference to the three-body problem as well as reminding me of The Ah of Life. Even more interestingly, Baxter did not so much write the play as patch it together, since it is claimed that all of the dialogue was taken directly from texts written by Newton and his contemporaries.

I have not seen the show (which opened at the Menagerie Theatre in the UK and then toured North America in 2011), nor have I read the script. I have only read a few reviews. From these, it seems reasonable to conclude that there is only a bit of math in the play, which of course also focuses on physics, religion and alchemy. Yet, there does seem to be enough to justify including an entry for this show in this database. In particular, in addition to brief discussion of the derivation of elliptic orbits for planets from the famous equation F=ma, the question of whether the credit for the creation of calculus should go to Leibniz or Newton is addressed, though it apparently quickly turns into a theological debate. If you were lucky enough to see the show or read the script, please write to me with your comments so that I can post them here.

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Works Similar to Let Newton Be!
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Leap by Lauren Gunderson
  2. Newton's Hooke by David Pinner
  3. Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson
  4. Verrechnet by Carl Djerassi / Isabella Gregor
  5. An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson
  6. Calculus (Newton's Whores) by Carl Djerassi
  7. Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini
  8. Hypatia's Math: A Play by Daniel S. Helman
  9. Hidden Figures by Allison Schroeder (writer) / Theodore Melfi (director and writer)
  10. Hypatia or The Divine Algebra by Mac Wellman
Ratings for Let Newton Be!:
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GenreHistorical Fiction,
MotifReal Mathematicians, Isaac Newton,
TopicAnalysis/Calculus/Differential, Mathematical Physics,

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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)