Charles Howard Hinton

Is your surname Hinton?

Research the Hinton family

Charles Howard Hinton's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Charles Howard Hinton

Birthdate: (54)
Birthplace: Bartholomew Square, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Hinton and Margaret Hinton
Husband of Maud Hinton and Mary Ellen Hinton
Father of Sebastian Hinton
Brother of Margaret Hinton; William Bartlett Hinton and Ada Cort Nettleship (Hinton)

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Charles Howard Hinton

Charles Howard Hinton (1853, UK – 30 April 1907, Washington D.C., USA) was a British mathematician and writer of science fiction works titled Scientific Romances. He was interested in higher dimensions, particularly the fourth dimension, and is known for coining the word "tesseract" and for his work on methods of visualising the geometry of higher dimensions.


Hinton taught at Cheltenham Ladies College while he studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained his B.A. in 1877. From 1880 to 1886, he taught at Uppingham School in Rutland, where Howard Candler, a friend of Edwin Abbott Abbott's, also taught. Hinton also received his M.A. from Oxford in 1886.

In 1877 Hinton married Mary Ellen, daughter of Mary Everest Boole and George Boole, the founder of mathematical logic. In 1885 he went through a marriage ceremony with Maud Wheldon, by whom he had had twin children. He was subsequently convicted of bigamy and spent three days in prison, losing his job at Uppingham. In 1886 he moved with Mary Ellen to Japan and later to Princeton University by 1893 as an instructor in mathematics.

In 1897, he designed a gunpowder-powered baseball pitching machine for the Princeton baseball team's batting practice. According to one source it caused several injuries, and may have been in part responsible for Hinton's dismissal from Princeton that year. However, the machine was versatile, capable of variable speeds with an adjustable breech size, and firing curve balls by the use of two rubber-coated steel fingers at the muzzle of the pitcher. He successfully introduced the machine to the University of Minnesota, where Hinton worked as an assistant professor until 1900, when he resigned to move to the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

At the end of his life, Hinton worked as an examiner of chemical patents for the United States Patent Office. He died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 30, 1907.

Fourth dimension

In an 1880 article entitled "What is the Fourth Dimension?", Hinton suggested that points moving around in three dimensions might be imagined as successive cross-sections of a static four-dimensional arrangement of lines passing through a three-dimensional plane, an idea that anticipated the notion of world lines, and of time as a fourth dimension (although Hinton did not propose this explicitly, and the article was mainly concerned with the possibility of a fourth spatial dimension), in Einstein's theory of relativity. Hinton later introduced a system of coloured cubes by the study of which, he claimed, it was possible to learn to visualise four-dimensional space (Casting out the Self, 1904). Rumours subsequently arose that these cubes had driven more than one hopeful person insane.

Hinton created several new words to describe elements in the fourth dimension. According to OED, he first used the word tesseract in 1888 in his book A New Era of Thought. He also invented the words kata (from the Greek for "down from") and ana (from the Greek for "up toward") to describe the two opposing fourth-dimensional directions—the 4-D equivalents of left and right, forwards and backwards, and up and down.

Hinton's Scientific romances, including "What is the Fourth Dimension?" and "A Plane World", were published as a series of nine pamphlets by Swan Sonnenschein & Co. during 1884–1886. In the introduction to "A Plane World", Hinton referred to Abbott's recent Flatland as having similar design but different intent. Abbott used the stories as "a setting wherein to place his satire and his lessons. But we wish in the first place to know the physical facts." Hinton's world existed along the perimeter of a circle rather than on an infinite flat plane. He extended the connection to Abbott's work with An Episode on Flatland: Or How a Plain Folk Discovered the Third Dimension (1907).


Hinton was one of the many abstruse thinkers who circulated in Jorge Luis Borges's pantheon of writers. Hinton is mentioned in Borges' short stories "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", "There Are More Things" and “El milagro secreto” (“The Secret Miracle”):

“He judged A Vindication of Eternity to be less unsatisfactory, perhaps. The first volume documents the diverse eternities that mankind has invented, from Parmenides' static Being to Hinton’s modifiable past; the second denies (with Francis Bradley) that all the events of the universe constitute a temporal series.”

Hinton is mentioned several times in Alan Moore's graphic novel From Hell; his theories regarding the fourth dimension form the basis of the book's final chapter. His father, James Hinton, appears in chapters 4 and 10.

He is mentioned twice in Aleister Crowley's novel Moonchild.

view all

Charles Howard Hinton's Timeline

London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
February 13, 1887
Age 34
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
April 30, 1907
Age 54
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States