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de Morgan, Augustus

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1806-1871) UK mathematician and logician, professor of mathematics from age 22 at the then newly founded London University; best remembered for De Morgan's Laws in logic and for formalizing the principle of mathematical induction; father of the supernatural novelist and designer William de Morgan (1839-1917) [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] who was involved with William Morris. de Morgan is of intermittent genre interest for the posthumously collected A Budget of Paradoxes (coll 1872; exp rev 1915 2vols), long in preparation and completed by his widow Sophia Elizabeth de Morgan. This is assembled from his letters in the Athenæum and other magazines, listing and commenting on his collection of books and pamphlets by generally self-published "paradoxers" who rejected current Astronomy, Mathematics (in particular with fallacious "proofs" of the value of pi – 3⅛ being a favourite choice – and the impossible squaring of the circle with compass and straight-edge alone) or Physics. Subjects covered include Richard Adams Locke's "Great Moon Hoax" and such eccentric speculations as The mystery of being; or are ultimate atoms inhabited worlds? (1863) by Nicholas Odgers, whose arguments about matters Great and Small also implied (according to de Morgan) the possibility of a Time Viewer. Several other notions discussed have an air of Proto SF: the Solar System is really only a few thousand miles across and the Sun quite close; Earth is not flattened but "elongated" at the poles; all planets are steadily growing (eventually to become suns) and hence the latitude of England is slipping southward. Like Martin Gardner and John Sladek in the twentieth century, de Morgan was an indefatigably witty scourge of Pseudoscience. [DRL]

Augustus de Morgan

born Madurai, Madras Presidency, British India: 27 June 1806

died London: 18 March 1871

works (selected)


  • A Budget of Paradoxes (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1872) [nonfiction: coll: edited by Sophia Elizabeth de Morgan: hb/]
    • A Budget of Paradoxes (Chicago, Illinois, and London: The Open Court Publishing Co, 1915) [nonfiction: coll: exp rev of the above published in two volumes: edited and annotated by David Eugene Smith: hb/]


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