Mandelbrot the Magnificent - Tor/Forge Blog

5 Badass Mathematicians in Genre Fiction

By Lisa Ickowicz

Perhaps you don’t think the terms “badass” and “mathematician” add up. But maybe you haven’t heard about S.L. Huang’s blockbuster, near-future science fiction thriller, Zero Sum Game. But the novel’s mercenary main character with superpowers isn’t the only badass mathematician in fiction.

Here’s a list with her and some others that count!

Fearless Mercenary Math Badass: Cas Russell (Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang)

Placeholder of  -5Cas Russell is good at math. Very good. Using the vector calculus blazing through her head, she can smash through armed men twice her size—including whole motorcycle gangs—and dodge every bullet in a gunfight. She’s a retriever. She gets things back for people and she’ll take any job for the right price. But now she’s involved with a very dangerous person who can reach into people’s minds. She should run like she usually does, but there’s only one problem. She doesn’t know which thoughts are her own anymore.

Nazi-fighting Math Badass: Benoit Mandelbrot (Mandelbrot the Magnificent by Liz Ziemska)

Place holder  of - 9Benoit Mandelbrot knows mathematics and he knows monsters. He was born a Polish Jew in Warsaw and he and his family had to flee to France during the rise of Hitler. It is only through his love of mathematics that he is able to escape the cruelties of the world around him. However, his gifts do not make life easier. Jealousy from classmates and a Nazi invasion in France add up to disaster for Benoit. He must try to save his family with a secret spaces he has discovered, or his genius will destroy them all.

Intergalactic Math Badass: Hari Seldon (The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov)

Poster Placeholder of - 54Born on the planet Helicon in the Arcturus sector, Hari Seldon showed incredible mathematical abilities at a very early age. As mathematics professor at Streeling University on the planet Trantor, Hari develops psychohistory, an algorithmic science that allows him to predict the future in probabilistic terms. On the basis of his psychohistory he is able to predict the eventual fall of the Galactic Empire and to develop a means to shorten the millennia of chaos to follow.

Fashionista Math Badass: Melanie Prescott (The Givenchy Code by Julie Kenner)

Image Place holder  of - 23As if a recent breakup, scrounging for rent money, and lusting after designer shoes weren’t enough, graduate student Melanie Prescott starts receiving obscure codes and clues from a menacing stranger. She attempts to solve the mysteries – she is a math major after all — with high hopes for the multimillion-dollar reward guaranteed at the end. But she can only go on a shopping spree if she survives a madman’s deadly game.

Multi-generational Math Badasses: Lawrence & Randall “Randy” Waterhouse (Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson)

Image Placeholder of - 31Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse is a mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy during WWII. Assigned to a secret outfit, Detachment 2702, his mission is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy’s fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart.

Randy Waterhouse inherited his grandfather Lawrence’s skill of advanced mathematics. He is a crypto-hacker attempting to create a “data haven” in Southeast Asia. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy tries to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But the scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702.

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