Measuring the World
by Daniel Kehlmann
translated from German by Carol Brown Janeway
This is my Austria book for my EU Reading Challenge. It’s the fictionalised story of two real German scientists whose lives and work intersected, despite their very different backgrounds and temperaments.
Carl Friedrich Gauss and Alexander von Humboldt are unlikely stars for a comedy, but Kehlmann’s style leans towards the comedic. He also shows a fascination with facts and scientific process, which makes these two men a great choice for him.
Humboldt and Gauss both did work mapping and measuring the physical landscape – distances and heights primarily. For Gauss this was unwelcome, unpleasant work that forced him to be outdoors and interact with people in return for food and shelter. He much preferred to be at home with his beloved wife observing the stars and calculating the maths that governed their movements.