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I just browsed through the book Foundations of Algebra and Analysis by C. Dodge, which contains a very short biography of a very famous mathematician at the beginning of each chapter, together with some anecdotes about him. For example chapters 7 resp. 9 begin with the biographies of Gauss resp. Weierstrass.

Now here's the thing: The appendix begins with the biography of a guy named Euclide Paracelso Bombasto Umbugio. Since the author put him in the same league of all the other world-class mathematicians I wondered how I hadn't yet heard of him. And after reading his biography I'm not sure, if the the author, Dodge, either made fun of him by writing in a exaggerated positive manner about him (already his name would serve for that; additionally Dodge affirms that the "professors legendary library" contains "rare and unique titles as 1,000,000 Random Numbers is Ascending Order" or that Umbugio has made "distinguished research into the double-digit dates of known geometers") or was serious about him (since at other times the author seems to display sincere admiration for Umbugio; he is also mentioned throughout the book in the biographies of the others mathematician, where Dodge writes something like "according to Professor Umbugio, that year $????$ [referring to the year of birth of the mathematician the biography was about] was a good year for geometers").

Since I wasn't sure, if maybe the whole Umbugio thing was just a giant hoax I didn't get (something like: he's a well-know fictional mathematician circulating through the mathematical community, that I'm not familiar with), or if only the author of Foundations of Algebra and Analysis was a weird guy. So I googled him! Turns out, that Umbugio seems to exist, since there is (somewhat scarce) evidence of him: Just look at the first hits. He's mentioned in the book "Mathematical quickies" by C. Trigg and even on cut-the-knot (with a flawed proof of Morley theorem). It also seems that the author of Foundations of Algebra and Analysis wrote an article about him in 1977 in Crux Mathematicorum.

So it seems to me that Umbugio is just an odd mathematician (attracting other odd mathematicians), lost in the myths of mathematical history; though I find it curious how mathematicians that write books, that are relatively okay, like the one mentioned above, come up with stuff like this.

Curious to know your thoughts... ...

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1 Answer

Joking with us, eh? Umbugio? Bah! Humbug!


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Original appearance of the fabulous Prof. Umbugio, (E716). A solution and OEIS A082176. –  commenter Oct 28 '12 at 12:32
@PeterSmith Yes, the puzzle in which Umbugio is mentioned in link you provided actually also appears in the book which is the first hit in google (actually, now it is the second, since this question is the first :), i.e. the book "Mathematical quickies" by Trigg, which I mentioned above. So I take it, that Umbugio doesn't exist ? (Although it is odd, than an imaginary person has its own sequence in OEIS; this last bit of info by commenter I found wildly entertaining :) It's still odd though that authors like Dodge mention him in their books, isn't it ? –  temo Oct 28 '12 at 16:41
A notice in the Erewhon Daily Howler , dated 1 April , and anyone might think "Umbug io" wasn't fictitious? (Heck, I've made up exam problems like that...) [On a historical sidenote, the 16th-Century investigator known as Paracelsus was named Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, and is the source of the word "bombast".] On other significant "scientific works", look up Rhinogradentia, announced in an April issue of Natural History back in the '60s. There's at least a few infamous math hoaxes announced on 1 April as well (April is the cruelest month...). –  RecklessReckoner May 16 '13 at 22:58
I am also reminded of Martin Gardner's "colleague", Dr. I.J. Matrix, who penned a number of (actually worthwhile) mathematical essays. –  RecklessReckoner May 16 '13 at 23:04
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