Martin Gardner (born October
21, 1914, Tulsa,
Oklahoma) is an
American mathematics and science writer specializing in recreational mathematics, but with
interests encompassing micromagic,
stage magic, pseudoscience, literature (especially the writings of Lewis Carroll), philosophy, scientific skepticism, and religion. He wrote the
Mathematical Games column in
Scientific American
from 1956 to 1981, and he has published over 70 books.
Gardner reportedly coined the term
mathemagician.
Biography
Martin
Gardner grew up in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he attended college at the University of
Chicago, where he earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy. During
World War II, he served for several years in
the U.S.
Navy as a yeoman (the
ship's secretary) on board the destroyer escort USS Pope in the Atlantic, as Gardner
states several times in his writings. His ship was still in
the Atlantic when the war came to an end with the surrender of
Japan in August 1945.
After the
war, Gardner attended college at the University of
Chicago again. He also attended graduate school for
a year there, but he did not earn an advanced degree. Gardner
states this in his own writings.
For many
decades, Gardner, his wife Charlotte, and their two sons lived in
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, where he earned his living as an independent
author, publishing books with several different publishers, and
also publishing hundreds of magazine articles and newspaper
articles in various magazines and
newspapers. Either by choice or coincidence (given his
interest in logic and mathematics), they lived on
Euclid Avenue.
In 1979, he and his wife semi-retired and
moved to Hendersonville, North Carolina. His wife died in the year 2000.
In 2002
Gardner returned to Oklahoma, to Norman, Oklahoma, where his son, James Gardner, is a professor of
education at the University of Oklahoma.
Recreational mathematics
Martin Gardner more or less single-handedly renewed and nurtured
interest in recreational mathematics in
North America for a large part of the 20th
century. He is best known for his decades-long efforts in popular
mathematics and science journalism, particularly through his
"Mathematical Games" column in
Scientific American.
Gardner had problems learning
calculus and
never took a mathematics course beyond high school. He was the
editor of a children's magazine named "Humpty Dumpty" in 1956 when
he was asked by the publisher of
Scientific American about
the possibility of starting a regular column about recreational
mathematics, following his submission of an article about
flexagons.
The "Mathematical Games" column ran from 1956 to 1981 and
introduced many subjects to a wider audience, including:
Many of these articles have been collected in a series of books
starting with "Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions" first published
in 1956.
In 1981, on Gardner's retirement from
Scientific American,
the column was replaced by
Douglas
Hofstadter's "
Metamagical
Themas", a name that is an
anagram of
"Mathematical Games". Gardner has never really retired as an
author, but rather he continues to do literature research and to
write, especially in updating many of his older books, such as
Origami, Eleusis, and the Soma Cube, ISBN
978-0-521-73524-7, published 2008.
Gardner also wrote a "puzzle" story column for (Isaac)
Asimov's Science Fiction
magazine for a while in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Pseudoscience
Gardner's uncompromising attitude toward
pseudoscience made him one of the world's
foremost anti-pseudoscience
polemicists
of the 20th century. His book
Fads and Fallacies in
the Name of Science (1952, revised 1957) is a classic and
seminal work of the
skeptical
movement. It explored a myriad of dubious outlooks and projects
including
Fletcherism,
creationism,
organic
farming,
Charles Fort,
Rudolf Steiner,
Scientology,
Dianetics,
unidentified flying
objects,
dowsing,
extra-sensory perception, the
Bates method, and
psychokinesis. This book and his subsequent
efforts (
Science: Good,
Bad and Bogus, 1981;
Order and Surprise, 1983, etc)
earned him a wealth of detractors and antagonists in the fields of
"
fringe science" and
New Age philosophy with many of whom he kept up
running dialogs (both public and private) for decades.
In 1976, Gardner was a founding member of the Committee for the
Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (
CSICOP), and he wrote a column called "Notes of a
Fringe Watcher" (originally "Notes of a Psi-Watcher") from 1983 to
2002 for that organization's periodical
Skeptical Inquirer. These have been
collected in five books:
New Age: Notes of a Fringe
Watcher (1988),
On the Wild Side (1992),
Weird
Water and Fuzzy Logic (1996),
Did Adam and Eve Have
Navels (2000), and
Are Universes Thicker than
Blackberries (2003). Gardner is a senior CSICOP fellow and
prominent skeptic of the paranormal, Gardner is a
theist and professes belief in
God, although he is critical of organized religion.
Gardner has been quoted as saying that he regards parapsychology
and other research into the paranormal as tantamount to "tempting
God" and seeking "signs and wonders". He has, however, said that he
feels it might be possible that prayers may be genuinely answered.
They may minutely affect mathematical probabilities.
In 2001, Gardner sent
James Randi,
another challenger of pseudoscience, the key to an old theorem
asserted in 1960 by
Hugo Steinhaus:
the
one-seventh area
triangle found in an arbitrary triangle.
Religious and philosophical interests
Gardner has had an abiding fascination in religious belief. He has
written repeatedly about what public figures such as
Robert Maynard Hutchins,
Mortimer Adler, and
William F. Buckley, Jr. believed and whether
their beliefs were
logically
consistent. In some cases, he has attacked prominent religious
figures such as
Mary Baker Eddy on
the grounds that their claims are unsupportable. His
semi-autobiographical novel
The Flight of Peter Fromm
depicts a traditionally Protestant Christian man struggling with
his faith, examining 20th century scholarship and intellectual
movements and ultimately rejecting Christianity while remaining a
theist. He describes his own belief as philosophical
theism inspired by the theology of the philosopher
Miguel de Unamuno. While critical
of organized religions, Gardner believes in God, claiming that this
belief cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed by reason. At the same
time, he is skeptical of claims that God has communicated with
human beings through spoken or telepathic
revelation or through
miracles in the natural world.
Gardner's philosophy may be summarized as follows: There is nothing
supernatural, and nothing in human
reason or visible in the world to compel people to believe in
God. The mystery of
existence is enchanting, but a belief in "The Old
One" comes from
faith without
evidence. However, with faith and
prayer people can find greater happiness than
without. If there is an
afterlife, the
loving "Old One" is probably real. "[To an atheist] the universe is
the most exquisite
masterpiece ever
constructed by nobody", from
G.
K. Chesterton, is one of Gardner's favorite
quotes.
Gardner has said that he suspects that the fundamental nature of
human
consciousness may not be
knowable or discoverable, unless perhaps a physics more profound
than ("underlying")
quantum
mechanics is some day developed. In this regard, he says, he is
an adherent of the "
New
Mysterianism".
Literary criticism and fiction
Gardner is considered an authority on
Lewis Carroll; his annotated editions of
Carroll's works were reissued in 1999 as
The Annotated Alice. His viewpoint
has recently come under some criticism from the proponents of the
"Carroll Myth"; Gardner has hit back
very aggressively against the most famous of these -
Karoline Leach - in a recent issue of
Knight Letter, the journal of
the
Lewis Carroll
Society of North America.
In addition to his Carroll books, Gardner has produced “Annotated”
editions of
Chesterton’s
The Innocence Of Father Brown
and
The Man Who Was
Thursday as well as of celebrated poems including
The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner,
Casey at
the Bat and
The
Night Before Christmas.
Gardner has occasionally tried his hand at fiction of a kind always
closely associated with his non-fictional preoccupations (e.g.,
Visitors from Oz (1998),
based on
L. Frank Baum's
Oz books,
and stories about an imaginary
numerologist named
Dr. Matrix). His short stories are
collected in
The No-Sided Professor and Other Tales of Fantasy,
Humor, Mystery, and Philosophy (1987).
He is a member of the all-male literary banqueting club the
Trap Door Spiders, which served as
the basis of
Isaac Asimov's fictional
group of mystery solvers the
Black
Widowers.
Controversy
In addition to his expository writing about mathematics, Gardner
has been an avid controversialist on contemporary issues, arguing
for his points of view in a wide range of fields, from
general semantics to
fuzzy logic to watching TV (he once wrote a
negative review of
Jerry Mander's book
Four Arguments
for the Elimination of Television). His philosophical
views are described and defended in his book
The Whys of a
Philosophical Scrivener.
Gardner is well known for his sometimes controversial philosophy of
mathematics. He wrote negative reviews of
The Mathematical Experience
by
Philip J. Davis and
Reuben
Hersh and
What is mathematics, really? by Hersh, both
of which were critical of aspects of
mathematical Platonism, and the first of
which was well-received by the mathematical community. While
Gardner is often perceived as a hard-core Platonist, his reviews
demonstrate some
formalist
tendencies. Gardner maintains that his views are widespread among
mathematicians, but Hersh has countered that in his experience as a
professional mathematician and speaker, this is not the case.
Works
Books
- 1952 In the Name of Science G. P.
Putnam's Sons
- 1956 Mathematics, Magic and Mystery Dover; ISBN 0-486-20335-2
- 1957 Science Puzzlers The
Viking Press, Scholastic Book Services
- 1957 Fads and Fallacies in
the Name of Science Dover; ISBN 0-486-20394-8 (expansion
of In the Name of Science)
- 1957 Great Essays in Science (editor); Prometheus Books (Reprint edition 1994)
ISBN 0-87975-853-8
- 1957 The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was. (with Russel B.
Nye) Michigan State University Press. Revised 1994.
- 1958 Logic Machines and Diagrams. McGraw-Hill New
York
- 1960 The Annotated
Alice New York: Bramhall House Clarkson Potter. Lib of
Congress #60-7341 (no ISBN)
- 1962 The Annotated Snark New York: Simon &
Schuster. (Unabridged Hunting of the snark with
introduction and extensive notes from Gardner). 1998
reprint, Penguin Classics; ISBN 0-14-043491-7
- 1962 Relativity for the Million New York: MacMillan
Company (o.p.). Revised and updated 1976 as The Relativity
Explosion New York: Vintage Books. Revised and enlarged 1996
as Relativity Simply Explained New York: Dover; ISBN
0-486-29315-7
- 1964
The Ambidextrous Universe: Mirror Asymmetry and Time-Reversed
Worlds (updated 1990, to be re-released with updates June
9, 2005 as The New Ambidextrous Universe: Symmetry and
Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings: Revised
Edition, Dover; ISBN 0-486-44244-6)
- 1965 The Annotated Ancient Mariner New York: Clarkson
Potter, Reprint. Prometheus. ISBN 1-59102-125-1
- 1967 Annotated Casey at the Bat: A Collection of Ballads
about the Mighty Casey New York: Clarkson Potter. Reprint.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. ISBN 0-226-28263-5
Reprint. New York: Dover, 1995. ISBN 0-486-28598-7
- 1973 The Flight of Peter Fromm, Los Altos, California:
William Kaufmann, Inc. Prometheus Books; Reprint edition (1994)
ISBN 0-87975-911-9
- 1975 Mathematical Carnival: A New Round-up of Tantalizers
and Puzzles from "Scientific American", Knopf Publishing
Group; ISBN 0-394-49406-7
- 1976 The Incredible Dr. Matrix, New York, Charles
Scribner's Sons; ISBN 0-684-14669-X
- 1978 Aha! Insight, W.H. Freeman &
Company; ISBN 0-7167-1017-X
- 1981 Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus, Prometheus Books;
ISBN 0-87975-573-3 (paperback), ISBN 0-87975-144-4 (hardback), ISBN
0-380-61754-4 (Avon pocket paperback)
- 1981 Entertaining Science Experiments With Everyday
Objects; Dover; ISBN 0-486-24201-3
- 1982 Aha! Gotcha: Paradoxes to Puzzle and
Delight (Tools for Transformation); W.H. Freeman &
Company; ISBN 0-7167-1361-6
- 1983 The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, 1999
reprint St. Martin's Griffin; ISBN 0-312-20682-8
- 1983 Order and Surprise, Prometheus Books, ISBN
0-879-75219-X
- 1984 Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing (Test Your Code
Breaking Skills), Dover; ISBN 0-486-24761-9
- 1985 Magic Numbers of Dr Matrix, Prometheus Books;
ISBN 0-87975-282-3
- 1986 Entertaining Mathematical Puzzles, Dover; ISBN
0-486-25211-6
- 1987 The No-Sided Professor and other tales of fantasy,
humor, mystery, and philosophy, Prometheus Books; ISBN
0-87975-390-0
- 1987 The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown Oxford
University Press, ISBN 0-19-217748-6 (Notes by Gardner, on G. K.
Chesterton’s stories).
- 1987 Riddles of the Sphinx Mathematical Association of
American, ISBN 0-88385-632-8 (collection of articles from Isaac Asimov's Science
Fiction Magazine)
- 1987 Time Travel and Other Mathematical Bewilderments,
W.H. Freeman & Company; ISBN 0-7167-1925-8
- 1988 Perplexing Puzzles and Tantalizing Teasers,
Dover; ISBN 0-486-25637-5
- 1988 New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher, Prometheus
Books; ISBN 0-87975-432-X (collection of "Notes of a Fringe
Watcher" columns)
- 1990 More Annotated Alice, Random House; ISBN
0-394-58571-2 (a "supplement" to The Annotated Alice)
- 1991 The Unexpected Hanging and Other Mathematical
Diversions, University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition; ISBN
0-226-28256-2
- 1991 The Annotated Night Before Christmas: A Collection Of
Sequels, Parodies, And Imitations Of Clement Moore's Immortal
Ballad About Santa Claus Edited, with an introduction and notes, by
Martin Gardner, Summit Books
(Reprinted, Prometheus Books,
1995); ISBN 0-671-70839-2
- 1991 Fractal Music, Hypercards and More; W. H.
Freeman
- 1992 On the Wild Side, Prometheus Books; ISBN
0-87975-713-2 (collection of "Notes of a Fringe Watcher"
columns)
- 1993 The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy,
Prometheus Books,
- 1994 My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles, Dover;
ISBN 0-486-28152-3
- 1995 Classic Brainteasers, Sterling Publishing; ISBN
0-8069-1261-8
- 1995 Urantia: The Great Cult
Mystery, Prometheus Books; ISBN 0-87975-955-0
- 1996 Weird Water & Fuzzy Logic: More Notes of a Fringe
Watcher, Prometheus Books; ISBN 1-57392-096-7 (collection of
"Notes of a Fringe Watcher" columns)
- 1997 The Night Is Large : Collected Essays, 1938-1995,
St. Martin's Griffin; ISBN 0-312-16949-3
- 1998 Calculus Made
Easy, St. Martin's Press; Revised edition ISBN
0-312-18548-0 (Revisions and additions to the 1910 calculus
textbook by Silvanus P.
Thompson.)
- 1998 Martin Gardner's Table Magic, Dover; ISBN
0-486-40403-X
- 1998 Mathematical Recreations: A Collection in Honor of
Martin Gardner, Dover; ISBN 0486400891 - This book, edited by
David A. Klamer, was the tribute of the mathematical
community to Gardner when he retired from writing his Scientific
American column in 1981. (The Dover edition is a reprint of the
original, titled The Mathematical Gardner, published by
Wadsworth.) Discreetly assembled for the occasion, the stature of
the mathematicians submitting papers is a testament to Gardner's
importance.
- 1999 Gardner's Whys & Wherefores Prometheus Books;
ISBN 1-57392-744-9
- 1999 The Annotated
Alice: The Definitive Edition ; W.W. Norton & Company;
ISBN 0-393-04847-0
- 1999 The Annotated Thursday: G. K.
Chesterton's Masterpiece, the Man Who Was Thursday by G.
K. Chesterton, Edited by Martin Gardner.
- 2000 From the Wandering Jew to William F. Buckley,
Jr. : On Science, Literature, and Religion, Prometheus Books;
ISBN 1-57392-852-6
- 2000 The Annotated Wizard of Oz, New York: W.W. Norton
& Company; ISBN 0-393-04992-2 (introduction)
- 2001 A Gardner's Workout: Training the Mind and
Entertaining the Spirit ISBN 1-56881-120-9
- 2001 Mathematical Puzzle Tales; Mathematical
Association of America ISBN 0-88385-533-X (collection of articles
from Isaac
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine)
- 2001 Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?: Debunking
Pseudoscience, W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN 0-393-32238-6
(collection of "Notes of a Fringe Watcher" columns)
- 2002 Martin Gardner's Favorite Poetic Parodies
Prometheus Books; ISBN 1-57392-925-5
- 2003 Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?: Discourses
on Gödel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other
Mathematical and Pseudoscientific Topics, ISBN 0-393-05742-9
(collection of "Notes of a Fringe Watcher" columns and others)
- 2004 Smart Science Tricks, Sterling; ISBN
1-4027-0910-2
- 2007 The Jinn from Hyperspace: And Other Scribblings—both
Serious and Whimsical, Prometheus Books; ISBN
1-5910-2565-6
- 2008 Bamboozlers: The Book of Bankable Bar Betchas, Brain
Bogglers, Belly Busters & Bewitchery by Diamond Jim Tyler,
Diamond Jim Productions; ISBN 0-967-60181-9 (introduction)
- 2009 When You Were a Tadpole and I was a Fish and other
Speculations about This and That, Hill and Wang; ISBN 0-8090-8737-2
- (For a downloadable version of The Mathemagician and the
Pied Puzzler, another tribute book, see external links
below)
Note: Gardner has a number of books on magic written "
for the trade", which are not listed
here.
Collections of Scientific American columns
Fifteen books together—what
Don Knuth
calls "the Canon"-- encompass Martin Gardner's columns from
Scientific American:
- Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions: The First
Scientific American Book of Puzzles and Games 1959; University
of Chicago Press 1988 ISBN 0-226-28254-6 (originally published as
The Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and
Diversions)
- The Second Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles
and Diversions 1961; University of Chicago Press 1987; ISBN
0-226-28253-8
- Martin Gardner's New Mathematical Diversions from
Scientific American 1966; Simon and Schuster; reprinted by
Mathematical
Association of America 1995
- Numerology of Dr. Matrix 1967; reprinted/expanded as
The Magic Numbers of Dr. Matrix; Prometheus Books; ISBN
0-87975-281-5 / ISBN 0-87975-282-3
- Unexpected Hangings, and Other Mathematical Diversions
Simon & Schuster 1968; reprinted by University of Chicago
Press, 1991 ISBN 0-671-20073-9
- The Sixth Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles
and Diversions Simon & Schuster 1971
- Mathematical Carnival Vintage 1975; reprinted by
Mathematical
Association of America
- Mathematical Magic Show Vintage 1977; reprinted by
Mathematical
Association of America
- Mathematical Circus Vintage 1979; reprinted by
Mathematical
Association of America
- Wheels, Life, and Other Mathematical Amusements 1983;
W. H. Freeman & Co. ISBN 0-7167-1589-9
- Knotted Doughnuts and Other Mathematical
Entertainments 1986; W. H. Freeman & Co. ISBN
0-7167-1799-9
- Time Travel and Other Mathematical Bewilderments 1988;
W. H. Freeman & Co. ISBN 0-7167-1925-8
- Penrose Tiles to Trapdoor Ciphers 1989; W. H. Freeman
& Co. ISBN 0-7167-1987-8; reprinted by Mathematical Association of
America
- Fractal Music, Hypercards and More 1991; W. H.
Freeman
- Last Recreations: Hydras, Eggs, and other Mathematical
Mystifications 1997; Springer Verlag; ISBN 0-387-94929-1
Three other books collect some or all of Martin Gardner's columns
from Scientific American:
- The Colossal Book of Mathematics: Classic Puzzles,
Paradoxes, and Problems 2001; W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN
0-393-02023-1 (a "best of" collection)
- Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games 2005; Mathematical Association of
America; ISBN 0-88385-545-3 (CD-ROM of all fifteen books above,
encompassing all articles in the column)
- The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems 2006;
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN 0-393-06114-0
See also
Notes and References
- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/science/20tier.html
- Interview with Martin Gardner,
Notices of the
American Mathematical Society, Vol. 52, No. 6, June/July
2005, pp. 602-611
- Magazine Names the Ten Outstanding Skeptics of the
Century., Skeptical Inquirer
- The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin
Gardner, Quill, 1983
- The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin
Gardner, Quill, 1983
- The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin
Gardner, Quill, 1983
- [1]
External links