Monday, May 24, 2010

The Life of Martin Gardner 1914-2010

The math and science writer Martin Gardner passed away on Saturday. Gardner wrote the column Mathematical games for Scientific American from 1956 to 1981 and Scientific American reposted a 1995 profile, some Gardner puzzles and a 2002 column on Gardner's old book on pseudoscience. (Full disclosure: This blog is part of the Scientific American Partner Network).

Mathematical Games was the math blog before we had blogs. I read his columns religiously as a math-minded teenager, the best part of Scientific American at the time. Gardner retired from the column shortly before I started college replaced by the far too philosophical Douglas Hofstadter. 

I remember most Gardner's various columns on Conway's Game of Life. Gardner would excitedly report about someone who had solved some challenge about the game. These columns inspired one of the first programs I wrote on my TRS-80 in high school to simulate the game, first in Basic (too slow) and then in Z80 Machine Code (too fast). Didn't realize at the time that I had written a universal Turing machine with such a short set of instructions. 

Thanks Martin for inspiring both math and computation for me. This blog may never have happened if not for yours.


  1. I was trying to explain how his passing made me feel to some non nerd friends. I really couldn't think of any journalist as influential in their field. The guy who inspired all the guys who made everything does nto quite sum do him justice.

  2. It was one of his books that started me on my hobby, Cipher and Codes.

  3. Just like Lance and thousands of others, this Iowa farmboy too was inspired by Gardner's columns ... now he has left us, and who will sustain his unique style of friendly generous math-and-science?

    Perhaps the simple and hopeful answer is that *EVERYONE* who was positively influenced by Gardner, will help.