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Martin Gardner 1914-2010

I just heard that Martin Gardner died yesterday.

I used to love his Mathematical Games in some old copies of Scientific American I acquired. Well I say “love” but usually they tormented me. Due to a piece by him on fractals I taught myself complex arithmetic which was the thin end of a slippery slope that ended in a physics degree. That’s your fault Martin and I’m sure I’m very far from the only one to blame you for something similar!

Gardner was not a towering figure in Twentieth Century recreational mathematics – he was Twentieth Century recreational mathematics. He was also a debunker of pseudoscience and the paranormal as well as a writer on (amongst other things) philosophy and literature – especially the works of Lewis Carroll. His splendid annotations of the Alice books are a constant pleasure.

Professor Gardner let you rest in the peace you denied the rest of us and for many a “wasted” afternoon I thank you!

Here’s a very small collection of some of Martin Gardener’s most famous puzzles. Have fun!

11 Comments

  1. HSLD says:

    Where is the link Nick ?

    Or is that another puzzle ? :D

  2. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    Here’s a very small collection of some of Martin Gardener’s most famous puzzles.

    Erm…

  3. NickM says:

    Sorry folks! Link fixed. I had a hectic morning. I typed that whilst tidying my shed.

  4. Fredthrung says:

    “Professor Gardner let you rest in the peace you denied the rest of us and for many a “wasted” afternoon I thank you!”

    Allow me to echo your sentiments. Sadly missed.
    I, too, devoured most of what he wrote. Not just Scientific American columns but the books. My “Annotated Alice” is a prized possession and the old “Mathematical Diversions” Pelicans from the 60s and 70s continue to give joy. I bought a beautifully carved soma cube when he introduced it to me in his writing – still, after decades, one of my treasured possessions.

  5. CIngram says:

    Peace? I hope he’s in the lowest circle of Hell being set fiendish puzzles in which the key words are in Serbo-Croat and demons poke him in the backside every so often and remind him he should have been at work half an hour ago.

    The link is particularly and gratuitously cruel. I don’t suppose I’m the only one here whose wife will soon be complaining that he’s ignoring her.

    But yes, I too have good memories of Martin Gardner. I still have several of his books on my shelves, and he taught me a lot about mathematics, and problem solving in general. God rest him.

  6. Sam Duncan says:

    “His splendid annotations of the Alice books are a constant pleasure.”

    They are indeed. I knew the name rang a bell, and I try to avoid Hard Sums whenever possible.

    I found my dad’s copy a years ago and pretty much wore it out. Mind you, it was a Penguin dated 1963, so it wasn’t hard, but a while back I decided I should try and replace it. I was under the impression – probably because it was clearly written for an American readership – that it was obscure and would be hard to find. I was really pleased to see that it’s as popular and successful as it deserves to be.

    If you like Carroll and haven’t read Gardner’s annotated version, anyone, do so. Seriously. Now. Here’s a link to Amazon UK and everything. You won’t regret it. It’s fascinating.

  7. opsimath says:

    I’m sad to hear of his death but he had a good innings; I always liked Garner’s stuff as he was the one who made maths into something fascinating away from the dull classrooms of the 50s and early 60s.

    Requiscat in pace, Martin.

  8. Linda Morgan says:

    Sad news, but not unexpected. I’d often wondered if I’d hear about his demise in a timely manner and thanks to you I have.

    I still have the Annotated Alice I bought looong ago in high school. Actually, it’s in my daughter’s bookcase but she knows it’s merely on loan. Just now I made a bee line for my copy of The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener and will keep it close to hand throughout the day. I haven’t read it through in a while but I’ll no doubt poke about in it a bit before I lay me down to sleep tonight.

    I liked his “Notes of a Fringe Watcher” columns and have a collection or two of those around here somewhere. Still have yet to take a good look at the mathematical puzzles for which he is most famous… but, hey, I just remembered a few years back we bought a little collection of magic tricks and stuff he put together probably back in the 50s. I helped the kids do the balancing thing with the forks and the half-dollar and the wine glass. Had a time finding a half-dollar…

    But back to The Whys, from which I’m lifting of Mr. Gardner’s many fascinating disclosures therein these which always especially interested me and which I think of particularly today:

    I myself am a theist (as some readers may be surprised to learn) but if you ask me to tell you anything about the nature of what lies beyond the phaneron – is it the mind of God, or pure mathematics, or some other kind of transcendent “stuff”? – my answer is “How should I know?” As I will be saying over and over again in this rambling volume, I am not dismayed by ultimate mysteries.

    And on expectations of life after this life:

    I think we have a right to say – or, rather, it is impossible for a theist not to say – that certain features about the other world must be assumed for the simple reason that if we don’t assume them we will be unable to imagine what it means to “live.” We do not want to live again in some vacuous disembodied state…

    We cannot, at least I cannot, imagine how I can “live” unless I am in some sort of time and space, retaining my consciousness of self, which means retaining my memories… Tell me I will live again, but without memory of my life here, and I will be as much impressed as if you told me that only my left foot will be alive in heaven.

    Thanks for the magic and the memories and all those cool annotations, Mr. Gardner, and Godspeed to you, your own memories and both your feet!

  9. my sister is a firm believer in the supernatural and the occult as well as on paranormal activities too-::

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