Abbott, Edwin A.

Flatland - A romance of many dimensions (1884)


Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is an 1884 satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott. Writing pseudonymously as "a square", Abbott used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to offer pointed observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. However, the novella's more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions, in a foreword to one of the many publications of the novella, noted science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov described Flatland as "The best introduction one can find into the manner of perceiving dimensions." As such, the novella is still popular amongst mathematics, physics, and computer science students.

In the book, men are portrayed as polygons whose social class is directly proportional to the number of sides they have, therefore, triangles, having only three sides, are at the bottom of the social ladder and are considered generally unintelligent, while the Priests are composed of multi-sided polygons whose shapes approximate a circle, which is considered to be the "perfect" shape. On the other hand, the female population is comprised only of lines, who are required by law to sway back and forth and sound a "peace-cry" as they walk, because when a line is coming towards an observer in a 2-D world, it appears merely as a point.

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