Curious about the cast of Advanced Triggernometry? Here’s a bit more information about the magnificent seven (real-world) mathematicians who inspired my crew of renegades.
Malago Browne (?)
Professor Browne is the only lead character not based on a historical mathematician. Since the books are written in first-person, I thought it best to make her wholly fictional. She’s at once a remarkable woman and a person just trying to get by, day to day. I wanted to give her a name that reflected this – like Halo Jones – half unique, half ordinary. The name ‘Malago’ is one anyone from Bristol will recognise; I liked it’s combination of suggestions, ‘mal’ – bad, ‘ago’ – former. She was originally Malago Brown, then by coincidence I discovered the work of pioneering mathematician Marjorie Lee Browne, and – wanting to pay tribute without co-opting her story – added the ‘e’ as a nod.
Outlaw name: “Mad” Malago Browne
Skills: Sharpshooter and Triggernometry Expert
Weapon of Choice: Rifle, Revolver and Protractor
Pierre de Fermat (1607-1665)
Pierre de Fermat was a mathematician best known for his contributions to analytic geometry, probability, and optics, as well as for his Last Theorem, which resisted proof for 358 years.
Fluent in six languages, Fermat studied and worked in law for most of his life, pursuing mathematics as more of a hobby. Despite this he made invaluable contributions to multiple fields. He wrote to – and disputed with – other contemporary mathematicians, like Pascal and Descartes, for much of his life.
Outlaw Name: Pierre “Polecat” de Fermat
Skills: Gambling, probability and optics
Weapon of choice: Pistols
Charles Lewis Reason (1818-1893)
Charles Reason was born in New York to Haitian parents. At the New York African Free School, the young Reason showed an early gift for mathematics, and by the time he was fourteen, he had already become a teacher.
Also a talented poet, linguist, administrator and abolitionist, he went on to start a teacher training college, and in 1849 was appointed to the newly-opened Free Mission College (New York Central College) as professor in belles-lettres, Greek, Latin, French and mathematics, becoming the first African American professor to teach at a predominantly white college. He later became a political journalist and administrator of schools in New York, fighting to end the racial segregation of public schools in the city.
Outlaw Name: “The Professor”
Skills: Angular velocity, knife-throwing, languages.
Weapon of choice: Rulers (brass, steel and bronze)
Wang Zhenyi 王貞儀 (1768–1797)
Wang Zhenyi was a scientist and mathematician who lived during the Qing dynasty. Defying the customs of the time, she educated herself in mathematics, astronomy, geography, medicine and poetry, becoming an acclaimed scholar.
During her youth she studied astronomy with her grandfather, poetry with her grandmother, maths, geography and medicine with her father, and horseriding, archery and martial arts with the wife of a Mongolian general. Her travels with her father, south of the Yangtze river, went on to inspire over a dozen volumes of poetry. She continued to study and teach mathematics, conducting research into celestial phenomena and writing texts that explained mathematical concepts in clear language for beginners. Although she died tragically young, aged twenty-nine, she left a lasting legacy through both her poetry and scholarly work.
Outlaw Name: Wang “Quickshot” Zhenyi
Skills: Celestial mechanics, projectiles, tactics.
Weapon of choice: Sextant and crossbow.
Évariste Galois (1811-1832)
Born outside of Paris, Galois started to take an interest in mathematics aged fourteen, though – like Sophie Germain before him – he was denied entry to the prestigious École polytechnique twice.
After the July Revolution and les Trois Glorieuses (during which he was locked into the École normale by the school’s director), Galois was expelled, joined the Republian artillery and later served six months in prison for threatening the life of the king. He continued to write and publish papers in which his unique leaps of logic baffled some mathematicians and delighted others.
Eventually, Galois was goaded into a duel – apparently over a love-affair – and was shot in the stomach. He died the next day, aged only twenty. His work, however, went on to have far-reaching consequences in many fields of mathematics.
Outlaw Name: “The Kid”
Skills: Radical circles, quick-draw.
Weapon of choice: Rifle, revolver, dagger and compass.
Archimedes (c. 287-212 BC)
Archimedes of Syracuse hardly needs an introduction; a mathematician, engineer, inventor, physicist and astronomer, he is considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of antiquity. Among his many contributions, he was one of the first mathematicians to apply principles of mathematics to physical phenomena, creating statics, hydrostatics, the principle that bears his name, as well as the Archimedes’ screw and the Archimedean spiral. He also invented defensible war machines, such as his rumoured Heat or Death Ray, designed to dazzle or set fire to ships in a harbour.
Archimedes was killed during Second Punic War after a two year siege on the city of Syracuse. The story goes that although invading General Marcus Claudius Marcellus gave orders for him not to be harmed, he was killed by a Roman soldier while trying to finish work on a drawing, his last words being “do not disturb my circles!”
Outlaw Name: “The Greek“
Skills: Inventing, engineering, reflections.
Weapon of Choice: Death Ray.
René Descartes (1596-1650)
Descartes, aka Renatus Cartesius, was a French-born mathematician, scientist and philosopher, famous for his statement: cogito, ergo sum – “I think, therefore I am.”
After studying to become a lawyer, Descartes abandoned law and joined the Dutch States Army as a mercenary, where he studied military engineering, and afterwards enrolled in Leiden University under the name “Poitevin” to pursue both mathematics and philosophy.
As a mathematician, he is best known for developing Cartesian or analytic geometry – using algebra to describe geometry. His work provided the basis for calculus later developed by Newton and Leibniz; he also studied optics and is credited with discovering laws of reflection and refraction. Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) continues to be a standard text in philosophy departments to this day.
Outlaw Name: “Poitevin” aka “René the Rat“
Skills: Optics, triggernometry.
Weapon of Choice: Mirrored Pistols.
“Clever, funny, subversive, wholly original, and packs a bigger punch than a Colt Peacemaker.”– Joanne Harris, author of The Testament of Loki, The Strawberry Thief, Chocolat & many more