This page contains a list of some of my writing (not including my technical publications). Underneath, you can read some of the nice things other people have said about my writing.


Maths 1001, Quercus, October 2010. “Absolutely everything you need to know about mathematics in 1001 bite-sized explanations.”

How to Build a Brain and 34 other really interesting uses of mathematics (a.k.a. Mathematics without the boring bits a.k.a. How to solve the Da Vinci code), Quercus, 31 March 2011.

The Maths Handbook, Quercus, November 2011

Chaotic Fishponds and Mirror Universes, Quercus, April 2013

Mathematics in 100 Key Breakthroughs, Quercus, July 2013

• I contributed to 30 Seconds Maths, edited by Richard Brown, published by Ivy Press, May 2012

• I contributed to Fifty Visions of Mathematics, edited by Sam Parc, published by Oxford University Press, May 2014

My books are managed by The Science Factory.


The algorithm that runs the world (cover feature about linear programming and Hirsch’s conjecture), New Scientist magazine, 11 August 2012.

Ultimate Logic (cover feature about set theory and the continuum hypothesis), New Scientist magazine, 30 July 2011. (This article is included in The Best Writing on Mathematics 2012, ed. Mircea Pitici)

Large cardinals: maths shaken by the ‘unprovable’, Daily Telegraph, 9 November 2010

Something doesn’t add up (cover feature about arithmetical incompleteness and large cardinals), New Scientist magazine, 16 August 2010.

Knot or Not? (feature article about knot theory and categorification), New Scientist magazine, 18 October 2008 (available in Mandarin here).

From e to eternity (feature article about about e, transcendental numbers, and Schanuel’s Conjecture), New Scientist magazine, 21 July 2007.

An Enormous Theorem: the classification of finite simple groups (Winner, Plus Magazine New Writers Competition, December 2006)

Cantor and Cohen: Infinite Investigators, Part 1: the axiom of choicePlus magazine, June 2008 (Also available in Arabic)

Cantor and Cohen: Infinite Investigators, Part 2: the continuum hypothesisPlus magazine, June 2008 (Also available in Arabic)

Exotic spheres, or why 4-dimensional space is a crazy placePlus magazine, January 2010
(and in Arabic)


Book Reviews

I am collecting reviews of my books on separate pages: Maths 1001, How to build a Brain/ Mathematics without the boring bits, The Maths Handbook, Chaotic Fishponds and Mirror Universes, and Maths in 100 Key Breakthroughs

An Enormous Theorem

My article won the Plus New Writers Competition in 2006, judged by Marcus du Sautoy (University of Oxford), John D Barrow (University of Cambridge), and Helen Joyce, Education Correspondent for The Economist.

“This is an excellent article. The author gave a real insight into the process of doing mathematics. This is the art of good popular science writing.” – Marcus du Sautoy

“In both content and style, Richard’s article is on a par with the best Plus authors – which include Roger Penrose, Geradus t’Hooft, John D Barrow, and Simon Singh.” – Marianne Freiberger, editor of Plus Magazine

Ultimate logic: To infinity and beyond

“[an] excellent article” – Tim Wilkinson

“Wow… such a refreshing and informative article.” – Grant Holland

“very cool” – Eric P. Charles

“Great article” – S. P. McCann

“A very readable article” – Alexander Bogomolny @CutTheKnotMath

“Thank you Richard! I’m no mathematician by any stretch, but I found this article interesting! You did explain this well despite the subject matter, and in such a way as to impressed upon the reader that there remains interesting things about mathematics yet to be discovered” – Pag

“This is an impressive piece of mathematical exposition. The subject of large cardinals is of course very technical, but you do a good job of conveying the flavor.” – Walt of Ars Mathematica

The algorithm that runs the world

“did a great job in making something mind meltingly dull sound quite interesting” – Ben Abramson

“Really enjoyed your simplex feature this week, which surprised me as I found the algorithm very dull at school! ” – Jacob Aron

Something doesn’t add up

“This is a great article, and Elwes is to be commended for bringing Harvey Friedman’s results to the wider public.” – Timothy Y. Chow

“Very Nice and Cleverly Written!” – Harvey Friedman

Knot or Not?

“People may be interested to learn a bit about Richard Elwes. He seems to be pretty serious about explaining math to a broad audience… but he seems to have a sense of humor, too” – John Baez

“I was delighted by the Knot Theory/Category Theory article. It is a gem” – Jonathan Vos Post, in the comments at the n-Category Café

Large cardinals: maths shaken by the ‘unprovable’

My article was included in the Daily Telegraph ‘Editors Choice’ selection online. It also received over 1000 Facebook recommendations, and was tweeted 100 times.

Exotic spheres, or why 4-dimensional space is a crazy place

“This is fascinating! And it’s so well written that even though it’s completely readable even to total maths beginners, it goes into quite a lot of interesting detail.” – dieyoubastards on reddit.com

“a great read and will put a smile on the face of any Lovecraft fan and give you a whirlwind tour of exotic mathematics at the same time” – Frater210 on Above Top Secret

“Eldritch Mathematician, Dr Richard Elwes” – Frater210 on Above Top Secret

“some interesting parallels between descriptions of Yog-Sothoth, and current ideas of the geometry of higher dimension.” – AHTZIB at Miskatonic Museum

“Oh, this is just perfect! Who knew Lovecraft was a hard science fiction author? At any rate, I am now resolved to devote a bit more study to mathematics for my own writing as a result of this article, and I’m a guy who avoids math (history degree). Nicely done!” – Christopher Baughman

Simple City

“Richard Elwes is a mere youngster, born in 1978. Growing up and living in England, he ‘matches’ my stereotype of Brits; he has a subtle, slightly twisted sense of humor which is shared in [Maths 1001] and on his weblog.” – sleeper54 at Epinions.com