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Somnium (1634)
Johannes Kepler

Contributed by William E. Emba

"Published posthumously, it is a short story about a dream of life on the moon. There is no mathematical content in the actual story, but Kepler included voluminous notes, plus a selenographical appendix, to go with the story, much of it explicit (if elementary) astronomical calculations."

"Edward Rosen's translation (KEPLER'S SOMNIUM: THE DREAM OR POSTHUMOUS WORK ON LUNAR ASTRONOMY, University of Wisconsin Press, 1967) includes Kepler's notes, along with his own extensive commentary and battery of appendices."

"Self-reference freaks will appreciate Kepler's footnote 5, attached to the narrator's statement that his mother (the witch whose occult powers got him to the moon, and thus not to be trifled with) does not approve of him writing. There is no footnote 5."

It should be noted that this book is by the Kepler (see also a fictional biography of this famous 17th century mathematician) and is often referred to as the first science fiction story. (Note, in fact, that this is not the first story about a trip to the moon. Remarkably, Lucian of Samosata wrote two "science fiction" stories about such trips 1,800 years ago!)

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Somnium
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Description of a New World, Called The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish
  2. Round the Moon by Jules Verne
  3. Topsy-turvy (Sans Dessus Dessous) by Jules Verne
  4. Plane and Fancy by P. Schuyler Miller
  5. The Gift of Numbers by Alan Nourse
  6. Merlin Planet by E.G. Von Wald
  7. When the Devil Took the Professor [Wie der Teufel den Professor holte] by Kurd Lasswitz
  8. El Troiacord by Miquel de Palol
  9. On the marriage of Hermes and Philology by Marianus Capella
  10. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
Ratings for Somnium:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
1/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (2 votes)

GenreScience Fiction, Fantasy,
MediumShort Stories,

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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)