Lewis Carroll through the looking glass

Mar 2015
Lewis Carroll is known to many as the author of classic books including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which features on the Kumon Recommended Reading List. But did you know he was also a great mathematician and scholar?

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson on 27 January 1832 in Cheshire. He showed flair for writing from a young age, having written poetry and short stories throughout his younger years, some of his work even appeared in national publications.

Despite his flair for writing, Dodgson chose to build on his talent for mathematics, and started at Christ Church College, Oxford University, in May 1850. In 1852 he obtained first-class honours in Mathematics Moderations. In 1854, he achieved first-class honours in the Final Honours School of Mathematics and a year later he won the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship in 1855, which he held for the next 26 years.

Dodgson continued to serve as a lecturer in maths and logic to undergraduates at Christ Church College after his graduation. He worked primarily in the fields of geometry, linear and matrix algebra, mathematical logic and recreational mathematics, and produced nearly a dozen books under his real name relating to mathematics, including An Elementary Treatise on Determinants.

At the same time he was teaching at Oxford University, Dodgson wrote books under his pen name of Lewis Carroll. His most famous novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was published in 1865 and the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, which includes the poem Jabberwocky, followed in 1871.

Carroll was notoriously shy and did not take naturally to the fame and recognition that the popularity of his novels bought, but he did continue to write under his pen name. Despite the success of his books, he continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881 and remained in residence there until he died on December 14 1898.