Lewis Carroll wins March Madness Bracket!

We’ve already exhausted the ‘March Hare Mad-Hatter-ness’ pun on this blog a few years ago, but Lewis Carroll is making basketball news during the college playoffs! His contributions to bracketology were discussed at length at the Wall Street Journal in two articles:

In addition to writing “Alice in Wonderland,” Lewis Carroll was a mathematician who was offended by blind draws in tennis tournaments. So Carroll devised a method to ensure that the most skilled players would survive to the latest rounds.

So in the spirit of adventure, The Wall Street Journal put Carroll’s radical format to the ultimate test: this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. If we assigned the 64-team field randomly, then played out the tournament based on the NCAA selection committee’s overall ranking for each team, what would happen? Would the teams that got unlucky draws or suffered early upsets still make it through to the late rounds? And would there be enough surprises to keep people entertained? [continue reading]

-Rachel Bachman, from “Introducing the Lewis Carroll Method,” The Count, Wall Street Journal, 22 March 2012.

The excellent illustration for the WSJ article by Scott Brundage

 

Then Bachman expanded the idea into a printed WSJ article:

When The Wall Street Journal undertook a search to figure out who invented the concept of the tournament bracket, nobody had any idea where the search might lead. It’s fair to say nobody imagined it would bring us to the same neighborhood inhabited by Alice, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter.

After our March 17 story, in which we speculated that an 1878 pairings list from Wimbledon was among the first brackets used in sports, we received a number of letters offering fresh leads. The most intriguing one came from a longtime reader, Joel Chinkes, who lives in Luna County, N.M.

Chinkes had in his possession a version of an 1883 monograph written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a 19th-century English mathematician better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. Carroll, as you may recall, is the author of Alice in Wonderland. Chinkes thought we should have a look at the monograph.

The monograph, “Lawn Tennis Tournaments, The True Method of Assigning Prizes with a Proof of the Fallacy of the Present Method,” is just about what it seems to be: a proposal for a better way to conduct a sports tournament. Let’s get one thing straight: Carroll didn’t invent the bracket. In writing this nine-page plan, his only goal was to make it better. [continue reading…]

-Rachel Bachman, from “A Bracket Through the Looking Glass,” Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2012.

In quasi-unrelated sports news, did you know the team name for Lincoln High School in Vincennes, Indiana, is the Lincoln Alices? Apparently they’ve been called that for so long that no one remembers why. (If anyone actually does know why, please tell us in the comments.) Anyway, congratulations on being the  2012 Sectional Champions!

Simon Winchester on Charles Dodgson: “his interest in the Liddell girls during their prepubescent years was unremarkable, in every sense of the word”

Simon Winchester, author of the excellent book The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, is back with a book about Lewis Carroll and the Liddell family called The Alice Behind Wonderland. The new book uses Carroll’s famous 1958 photograph of Alice as a beggar-girl as a launching point for the discussion. Former director of New York’s Morgan Museum and Library, Charles E. Piece, Jr., reviewed it in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago:

To my surprise, Mr. Winchester does not appear much interested in the influence that Alice Liddell might have had on Dodgson’s creation of the heroine of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and, six years later, “Through the Looking-Glass.” He simply relates the well-known story of how Dodgson took the Liddell girls on a picnic on July 4, 1862, during which he told them the tale of a little girl who had fallen down a rabbit hole. Alice, captivated by the tale, made Dodgson promise to write the story down and give it to her as a gift. In November 1864, he fulfilled that promise.

Mr. Winchester instead focuses on the odd estrangement between the Liddell family and Dodgson in the late 1860s, a breach that has remained largely unexplained. The most dramatic fact is that Dodgson and Liddell never saw each other again after he took the 18-year-old’s photograph in 1870.

The rest of that review is here. Simon Winchester’s The Alice Behind Wonderland was released March 17th with a hardcover price of $16.95.