Comics for Nerds

I was amazed to find out (perhaps a bit belatedly) that there is a graphic novel all about philosophical logic. Even better, the narrator of the comic is the wonderful British philosopher and social dissident, Bertrand Russell! Perhaps even more amazingly, it’s very, very popular.

The website describes Logicomix as follows.

This was a heroic intellectual adventure most of whose protagonists paid the price of knowledge with extreme personal suffering and even insanity… It grounds the philosophical struggles on the undercurrent of personal emotional turmoil, as well as the momentous historical events and ideological battles which gave rise to them.

The role of narrator is given to the most eloquent and spirited of the story’s protagonists, the great logician, philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell. It is through his eyes that the plights of such great thinkers as Frege, Hilbert, Poincaré, Wittgenstein and Gödel come to life, and through his own passionate involvement in the quest that the various narrative strands come together.

I almost can’t believe that such a graphic novel exists and, indeed, is very popular. It was #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, it’s been translated into over a dozen languages and has received glowing reviews from loads of publications.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the science communications sector about the quality of science journalism around the world. One thing that has come up in that discussion (which I’ve mentioned recently) is the lack of what Ben Goldacre called “succour for nerds” — science stories that aren’t sensationalising some new discovery but instead, discuss something theoretical or conceptual. This comic couldn’t be more in that vein.

Interestingly, I think there’s quite a history to comics filling this role. I’ve written a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald about an incredibly popular comic that did just this in the 1960s and once it’s published next week, I’ll say some more about it here…

I’m eagerly awaiting my Amazon order of Logicomix to arrive.