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Martin Gardner (born October 21, 1914, Tulsa, Oklahomamarker) 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.


Martin Gardner grew up in and around Tulsa, Oklahomamarker, and he attended college at the University of Chicagomarker, 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 Atlanticmarker, 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 Japanmarker in August 1945.

After the war, Gardner attended college at the University of Chicagomarker 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 Yorkmarker, 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 Carolinamarker. His wife died in the year 2000.

In 2002 Gardner returned to Oklahoma, to Norman, Oklahomamarker, where his son, James Gardner, is a professor of education at the University of Oklahomamarker.

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.


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.


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.



  • 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

  2. Interview with Martin Gardner, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 52, No. 6, June/July 2005, pp. 602-611
  3. Magazine Names the Ten Outstanding Skeptics of the Century., Skeptical Inquirer
  4. The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner, Quill, 1983
  5. The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner, Quill, 1983
  6. The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner, Quill, 1983
  7. [1]

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