2

A central character in Matt Haig's The Humans, is a Cambridge mathematician Andrew Martin, whose speciality is prime numbers. This character is supposed to be exceedingly brilliant and to have solved the Riemann hypothesis (one of the most famous outstanding problems in mathematics). Did the author ever indicate why he chose that name?

I am a real-life mathematician who studies prime numbers, and here are a couple of possible real-life mathematicians that could have inspired the name:

  • named in part after Andrew Wiles, a British mathematician who solved Fermat's Last Theorem 30+ years ago, and one of the most famous modern British mathematicians
  • a blending of the names Andrew Granville (British mathematcian) and Greg Martin, who wrote a reasonably accessible paper on "prime number races" that the author could have conceivably come across in research for the book

Of course, this could very well be coincidence, as Andrew and Martin are rather common first and last names, and the author chose the name for other reasons (or just because they were common). Still, as the significance of Andrew Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem seems comparable to a would-be proof of the Riemann hypothesis, it seems not unreasonable to guess that Andrew Martin might be named after Andrew Wiles.

  • Have you considered Martin Gardner? – Mick Jan 9 at 1:02
  • @Mick that was my first thought too… – Will Crawford Jan 9 at 21:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.