RIP, Martin Gardner

The man who “turned thousands of children into mathematicians, and thousands of mathematicians into children” is no more. James Randi’s post here. NYT obit here.

I posted my thoughts on Gardner just a few months ago, when he turned 95.

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  1. Surprising perhaps but I never read any thing by Gardner. It was lecturer Krishnamurty in Loyola College, Madras who used to teach once a week a sort of supplementary topics kind of course explaining functions, graphs and the numbers. He explained some of Cantor's ideas like his diagonal argument and that real numbers are not countable. Mathematics did not seem like calculations any more and had ideas, theories etc. Then I started looking at general books like E.T. Bell's Men of Mathematics", Courant and Robbins "What is mathematics', and they helped to appreciate mathes a bit more. For some reason I never liked puzzles or games but liked theorems and theories. I guess that there are different types of mathematics and different routes to appreciate aspects of it.

  2. gaddeswarup – Gardner's reputation for puzzles seems to dominate the obits, but puzzles were a small part of his Mathematical Games columns and an even smaller part of his total output. Primarily he wrote about 'recreational mathematics'. It's interesting you mention Cantor's diagonal argument because I first encountered that in a Gardner column called 'Aleph Null and Aleph One'. The column was on the countable infinity (aleph null) and the infinity of the reals (aleph one) and the question of whether there is any intermediate kind of infinity. (The answer is surprising. )

  3. It was possibly inappropriate on my part making that comment when somebody died but the diversity of the backgrounds of scientists from India and what stimulated them in early years continues to be a source of surprise to me.


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