Martin Gardner Passed Away
One of the people I admire most in the world died over the weekend.
Martin Gardner was 95, and died after a short illness. He lived in an assisted living facility in Norman, OK, where he moved after the death of his wife so he could be near his son.
Gardner made impacts in conjuring, skepticism, origami, and recreational mathematics. He was a scholar of the works of G. K. Chesterton, L. Frank Baum, and Lewis Carroll -- his Annotated Alice
has been in print for 50 years. (He also annotated "Casey at the Bat," "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "The Hunting of the Snark," The Innocence of Father Brown
, "The Night Before Christmas," The Man Who Was Thursday
, and The Wizard of Oz
He made his first contributions to magic magazines 80 years ago (The Sphinx
, May 1930), and just a couple of weeks ago I received in the mail the latest issue of Gibiciere
, the journal of The Conjuring Arts Research Center, with an extensive survey article by Martin on a type of card trick in which cards are located by spelling their names out as you deal through the deck. Martin modestly neglected to mention that on of the archetypes of this effect, the "Lie Speller" (in which the spectator may lie about the color, suit, value of his card and the card is still located) was invented by him in 1937.
Martin's first book was written while he was a student of philosophy at the University of Chicago, in 1935. It was a collection of tricks with matches called Match-ic
. Since then, he has published dozens more, in the fields of poetry, philosophy, fiction, science, puzzles, magic, skepticism, recreational mathematics, logic, relativity, codes and crytography, word puzzles, and more -- this, plus hundreds of magazine articles, book review, puzzles, letters of comment and other written works.
Of interest to readers of this forum might be his 1984 book Puzzles from other worlds: fantastical brainteasers from Isaac Asimov's science fiction magazine
, a collection of science-fiction puzzle stories he wrote for that magazine (see the Internet Science Fiction Database for more examples of his SF writings.)
He had regular columns in Parents
, Physics Teacher
, Hugard's Magic Monthly, Magic
, Free Inquiry
, Humpty Dumpty
(he was an editor for that magazine for a while in the 1950s), and Skeptical Inquirer
He did regular book reviews for Nature
, the New York Times
, the New York Review of Books
, and The Raleigh News and Observer
But his long-running column of recreational mathematics in Scientific American
(25 years) was probably what he'll be most remembered for. Here, he explored cellular automata (the game of Life), logic puzzles, the Four-Color Problem, Fermat's Last Theorem, prime numbers, number theory, lightning calculators (like Andrew Jackson Libby), M. C. Escher, paradoxes and dozens of other topics, despite having never formally studied mathematics beyond high school.
I never met Gardner, but have been priviledged to attend four of the Gatherings for Gardner, a biannual invitation-only conference held in Atlanta where enthusiasts of magic, puzzles and recreational mathematics get together and have fun.
In his NYTimes obituary HERE
, it says: "Mr. Gardner [said] that his life was not all that interesting, really. “It’s lived mainly inside my brain,” he told The Charlotte Observer in 1993. " That's not a bad way to have lived.