Monday, September 30, 2019

Richard Guy is 103 years old today

Richard Guy is a mathematician. He co-authored the classic book Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays with Elywn Berlekamp and John Conway.

On Sept 30 (today) he turned 102. According to this list he is the oldest living mathematician, and he would need to live to 110 to be the oldest mathematician ever.

I have met him twice. He was at the Gathering for Gardner Conference as a young 98-year old. I told him that his book Winning Ways had a great influence on me. He asked it if was positive or negative. I later saw him at a Math conference where he went to my talk on The Muffin Problem. So he is still active.

His Wikipedia site says that he says he regards himself as an Amateur Mathematician. While it is awkward to disagree with how someone sees himself, I'll point out that he is an author or co-author of 11 books, has many papers, and has solved Erdos Problems. He has taught some but I couldn't really find out what his source of income is or was. This takes us back to the word `amateur' which has several meanings:

Amateur: Someone who does X for the love of X (Amor is Love in Spanish), and not for money. This could be true of Richard Guy. This notion of amateur may be lost on my younger readers since this it used to be a thing to NOT take money since it somehow soils what you do. In those days Olympic athletes could not have played professionally beforehand. We can't imagine that now.

Amateur: Someone who dabbles in something but is not really that good. This could NOT be true of Richard Guy.

Aside from games he has also worked in Number Theory. His book Unsolved Problems in Number Theory has inspired many (including me).

So happy birthday Richard Guy!

He is the also the oldest living person we have honored on this blog. Second oldest was Katherine Johnson, see who is still alive.

ADDED LATER- some people emailed me if Richard Guy was still actively doing mathematics. Here is a recent paper of his: here


  1. Amateur: Probably he does not have a PhD in math.