John Gribbin

Mad as a Hatter

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers

By

Fourth Estate 243pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Mathematicians – the really, really good ones – are not like other people. One of the (true) stories recounted by Paul Hoffman concerns the mathematician who slept with his wife only on those days of the month that were prime numbers – the second, third, fifth, seventh, and so on. Not so bad early in the month, but tougher as the primes thin out (19, 23, 29). When last heard of, he was ‘serving twenty years in the Oregon State Penitentiary for kidnapping and attempted murder’. We are not told on which day of the month the crimes were committed, but my guess is the 28th.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Englishmen Abroad in the Reign of Henry VIII'. Free lecture by Dr Susan Brigden, Thurs 18 Oct, 6.30pm Europe Hou… ,
    • It 'contains twists and near misses and bit-part players, everything you might expect from a true-crime story'. Ian… ,
    • Oh normally a week or two before the ceremony itself - so mid-November. ,
    • Ian Sansom reviews The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by… ,
    • 'It is hard to think of an economist who could craft such an elegantly readable account of postwar failure as this.… ,
    • Frederick Forsyth reviews The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by ,
    • . reviews What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain by James Hamilton-Paterson ,