Thursday, June 3, 2010

Farewell, Mr Gardner

Martin Gardner, the first Mathemagician, the first editor of the column called Mathematical games in Scientific American and an author of over 70 thought provoking books on topics mostly related to mathematics, physics, logic and philosophy passed away on May 22 this year.

Given that he was 95, it had to happen sooner or later, but still his passing away came as a blow to me. I am a huge admirer of books by Gardner. I love trying out new puzzles and to me Gardner's books were God sent at a time when all I could see around myself were books by George Summers, Shakuntla Devi and Ravi Narula. I did not find these books to be any good as most of the puzzles they contained were not good enough. I could solve most of the problems of these books when I tried them and most of the time I did not feel like trying them as they were too boring -- to me, they looked like problems of grocery bill variety. I was of belief that good puzzles ought to have some "sort of life". Essentially what I was looking for were questions of the type which required some Aha! moments as Mr. Gardner put it.

Then I ran across several of his books - Aha! Insight, Aha! Gotcha, Puzzles and Diversions, Knotted Doughnuts, Penrose Tiles to Trapdoor Ciphers, Colossal book of Mathematics and a few other books. These books made mathematics look like sport. I am not saying they made mathematics look easy -- they made mathematics look fun. I also joined the group of people whose lives were affected by Gardner. As Conway, Berkelamp and Guy put it in their Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays, Gardner truly brought more math to millions than did anyone else.

If you have heard of some good puzzle that you think requires some Aha! moment, chances are that Martin Gardner first popularized the puzzle in some of his columns or through some of his books.

His passing away certainly shocked me. But Martin Gardner has left an undying legacy behind him. You should definitely go and see his books if you have not seen them so far. I promise, it will be an Aha! experience.

I Salute you Mr. Gardner. Farewell, Sir.


koleah said...

Are you originally from Kauai?

Akash kumar said...