After years of ignoring them, I was inspired to return to the world of graphic novels by my artist friend, Jeremy Grant, who writes an excellent blog with his wife over at Art In Love. One of the first graphic novels I discovered was Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos and Annie DiDonna. I could not have chosen a better way to begin my journey.
Logicomix is the story of Bertrand Russell. Bertrand Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a mathematician, philosopher, historian and logician among other things. Russell was part of a quest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to prove the foundations of mathematics.
Logicomix is not some dry math textbook though. The search for math’s foundations is really just the framework in which the authors tell a very human story about man’s search for absolute truth and meaning–about hubris, madness, and the limits of rationalism–all the while delighting you with fantastic artwork. Logicomix fully leverages the “graphic” in graphic novel in order to completely draw you into the story.
The authors and artists made the brilliant choice to demonstrate their story’s relevance for today by including themselves and the “making of” the book in the book. I typically don’t enjoy books or films that are too self-referential but, in this case, the move pays off beautifully as the creators argue about what their story really means. Is the story about math? Is it about history? Is it about humanity? Is it about the madness that is the end of hubris? In the end, Logicomix is about all of these things.
As the story of Bertrand Russell’s life is told you will meet many other great thinkers like: Kurt Gödel, Alan Turing, Alfred North Whitehead and Ludwig Wittgenstein. You will get an accesible introduction to some of the most important mathematical thought and concepts that still have impact today. You will learn about the origin of the computer. Finally, you will be left with questions about the nature of reality and man’s place in it.
Pick up a copy of Logicomix and enjoy the beautiful artwork and storytelling. Also, check out the video below in which the authors talk about their work.