Was Disney trying to kill mathematicians during the 1930’s?

It’s time for a break from the technical posts, so the only equations in this post are in the following figure. Have you ever noticed that the deaths of two of the 20th century’s top mathematicians were related to Disney’s 1937 film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”?

Disney-Math-Cinderella-Infographic
A more optimistic Disney-mathematics connection.

The more well-known story is the one of Alan Turing. It appears that Disney’s Snow White was Turing’s favorite film. Turing was especially fond of the scene where the wicked witch holds the poisoned apple, and used to chant the witch’s song

Dip the apple in the brew / Let the Sleeping Death seep through.”

Eventually, Turing reenacted the following scene, committing suicide by taking a bite out of a poisoned apple (injected with cyanide).

alan-turing-2 goedel_small mickey 1
Alan Turing, Kurt Gödel, and Mickey Mouse.

Somewhat less known is that Disney’s 1937 Snow White was also Kurt Gödel’s favorite film. It is told that Gödel also unsuccessfully tried to make Einstein interested in the movie. Gödel was not completely stable, and the movie seems to have pushed him towards having an obsessive fear of being poisoned. “He would eat only food that his wife, Adele, prepared for him. Late in 1977, Adele was hospitalized for six months and could no longer prepare Gödel’s food. In her absence, he refused to eat, eventually starving to death”.

Is this just a coincidence? All I know is that Walt Disney appeared to be quite satisfied with the way Turing commited suicide. In light of this, you might want to watch The Little Mermaid instead…

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One thought on “Was Disney trying to kill mathematicians during the 1930’s?

  1. My professor (Godel expert) told me about this a few years ago and I had to Google to make sure I hadn’t imagined it! Bizarre that Turing and Godel shared the same favorite movie and that it was Snow White of all things.

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