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Martin Gardner, 'Mathematical Games' writer

Emma Brown

Martin Gardner, who captured a popular audience with his writings about recreational math and science, died yesterday, the Associated Press has reported. He was 95.

Mr. Gardner was perhaps best known for the "Mathematical Games" column he created for Scientific American. He produced the column for 25 years, introducing a generation of readers to logic puzzles and math concepts like fractals.

He wrote dozens of books about science, math and pseudoscience, including books aimed at children and teens. Among his most famous titles is "The Annotated Alice," in which he lifted the lid of Lewis Carroll's classic fantasies "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" to reveal a hidden tapestry of word games and literary references.

Mr. Gardner was largely self-taught: he did not take a single math class after high school. "There is no better way to learn anything than to write about it!" he once said. His lack of expertise may have been partly responsible for his success -- he relied on jokes and cultural references instead of academic jargon.

He was once described as "one of the great intellects produced in this country in this century" by Pulitzer-Prize winning scientist Douglas Hofstadter, who succeeded Mr. Gardner as author of "Mathematical Games" in 1981.

"I think my whole generation of mathematicians grew up reading Martin Gardner," writer and mathematician Rudy Rucker of San Jose State University told Scientific American in 1995.

By Emma Brown  |  May 23, 2010; 10:37 AM ET
Categories:  Emma Brown , Science  | Tags: martin gardner died, martin gardner dies, martin gardner obituary  
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As a child, I enjoyed reading about the occasional adventures of Dr. Matrix. I was an adult before I learned that he was not real. I only learned of Mr. Gardner's passing today. It seems very unfair that his passing did not evoke greater notice.

Posted by: ks54 | May 30, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

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