I loved Sherlock Holmes mysteries when I was a child. A few years ago I learned the disappointing news that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a spiritualist who believed in séances. Because of this, his once close friend Harry Houdini became a rival.
Their falling out began when Houdini joined the Doyles for an intimate séance, in which Lady Doyle proposed to contact Houdini’s beloved mother. Although a skeptic, Houdini did believe in an afterlife, and as biographer Kenneth Silverman wrote, “closed his eyes and tried to rid his mind of all but religious thoughts.” But by the time Lady Doyle had filled fifteen sheets with automatic-writing she claimed had come from Cecelia Weiss, Houdini had only become further convinced that he was witnessing a fraud.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Doyle detested mathematics. In 1876 Doyle wrote “mathematics of every sort I detest and abhor.” I should have been tipped off by the fact that the criminal mastermind and Holmes’ archenemy, Professor Moriarity, was a professor of mathematics.