By Lisa Katayama at 6:49 pm Sat, May 22, 2010
Martin Gardner, a pioneer in modern recreational mathematics and inventor of popular math games, has died. For thirty years, he penned a math games column in Scientific American (you can buy the full collection here). He was 95 years old.
Martin Gardner, 1914-2010 [Discover]
On one hand, it always sucks when someone dies. On the other hand, if I live to 95, and spend 1/3 of that doing anything as cool as creating recreational math games, I’d consider that a long life spent well.
When I was a teen I subscribed to Scientific American. I always read his column first. I gained a lot from it.
RIP Mr. Gardner…you introduced me to the world of math & science, and taught me it could be fun too! Without you I would have never considered studying mathematics, computer science, or linguistics…
while I don’t come close to even resembling a mathematician, I will always love and appreciate him for the Annotated Alice. If you love Alice in Wonderland and have never read his exhaustively annotated edition of it, you need to do yourself a favor and get it. Now.
Martin Gardner is my hero and cultural father.
Over 30 years ago my grandfather used to bring home photocopies of Martin Gardner’s columns for me. I couldn’t wait for the next one.
I think I’ll honor him by digging out those old columns and sharing them with my son now.
For the past three months or so, I’ve been studying the Calculus- using big, lumpy textbooks to autodidact my way to skipping a grade and a half. Last week, I was at the library and, while checking the math and science sections for something else, saw Martin’s edition of “Calculus Made Easy.” I hadn’t heard of him before, although I recognized his column from Scientific American. Picked the book up. Took it home. Read it. While I’d already picked up most of it, Martin (and the original author, Sylvanus P. Thompson) helped me “get” Reinann Sums and the Chain Rule on a much more intuitive level. If nothing else, thanks for that.
In the back of the book, there was an extra chapter, by Gardner- a puzzle section. Gardner explained that while Calculus is a useful tool, there are others. The chapter contained steeplechase puzzle, various observations, and a joke about Feynman. Thanks for that, Martin.
Gardner was also a great skeptic, having written Fads and Fallacies In the name of Science. It’s a classic of skepticism.
The Amazing Randi had something to say about the news:
My World Is A Little Darker
Thanks to Martin Gardner, I know the difference between a lemon and a lime (handedness of the molecules) and spent many happy hours engrossed with his marvelous puzzles. He was an intellectual father figure to a nerdy girl without a father, who loved math and science but had no-one to talk to about them.
Thank you Mr Gardner, and rest in peace in whatever dimension you now find yourself exploring…
Martin Gardner was born in my hometown, Tulsa, and was a reporter for the Tulsa Tribune pre-WWII.
Back in the late 60s – early 70s, he got me interested in hexaflexagons, the Soma cube puzzle, and John Conway’s “Game of Life”.
Rest in peace, Martin.
Ah yes, the Soma cube. My sister and I made two sets in my grandfather’s woodshop, so there’s be no quarreling.
I grew up on his Mathematical Games column, and used to love making hexaflexagons. A few years ago I started making them for my small children, and they loved it too.
Why’s of a Philosophical Scribner is a classic of Skeptical literature, much better than some of the stuff that the CSI has been putting out over the past few years.
I’m crushed by this news, even if Gardner did have a long, full life. While in grade school I discovered his books AHA! GOTCHA and AHA! INSIGHT. I preferred the former, since it dealt not only understandably in complex math, but also hinted at the philosophy that such math necessitated and/or provoked. It was he that made me believe time travel wasn’t just fantasy but an entirely possible idea. For making the world greater and more magical using nothing but pure math, I will always be grateful to him.
Since I was old enough to understand what mathematics actually was, Gardner has meant to me what mathematicians are supposed to be. There is nothing that was not made more wonderful when he explored it.
If I ever say a tenth as much a tenth as well, I will die content with my achievement. Rest in peace.
RIP Master Methemagician Gardner. Thank you for allowing my students to discover the magically fun side of math!
His first two books of puzzles were one the best presents I ever received. They’re still on my shelves, with others I’ve added through the years. Not so oddly, they inspired my artwork more than my math–though they convinced me that math could be wildly interesting and led me to territories school math never did.
I loved his “Mathematical Games” column, and used to search the library for back issues so I could read them all.
Martin, you were the best!
If you’ve never really read Alice in Wonderland, or were never able to really enjoy it, I cannot suggest strongly enough that you immediately lay your hands on The Annotated Alice. Martin’s annotations reveal all, make you laugh, and even make you think HARD.
Martin Gardner was the kind of guy I always wanted to be. *snif*
Agree with Anon – he was a wonderful skeptic.
A great loss. He also authored an annotated version of Alice In Wonderland.
He loved Palindromes and would do a column on them from time to time. On one trip my son and I had breakfast at the Yreka Bakery because he’d mentioned it.
RIP while a virtual Boojum Tree grows on your tomb as Rev Dodgson awaights your flight to logical heaven.
Goodbye teacher, inspiration, and friend and thanks for the resources with which I’ve used to teach my students!
> The chapter contained steeplechase puzzle, various observations, and a joke about Feynman.
could you mail me the Feynman joke?
< eric dot angelini at skynet dot be >
Mail (will not be published) (required)
Submit a tip
The rules you agree to by using this website.
Who will be eaten first?
Jason Weisberger, Publisher
Ken Snider, Sysadmin