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Martin Gardner has Passed Away

Martin Gardner has passed away.  I know I am not the only person in operations research who was inspired by Gardner’s Mathematical Games columns in Scientific American.  I have a strong memory of whiling away long high school physics classes reading Gardner’s columns (and thankful that patient and insightful physics teacher had a stack of Scientific Americans and did not mind my lack of attention to his teaching).  A large number of the columns were really about operations research problems:  “What is the best way to do this?”  “How few moves are needed to accomplish that?”  It is through his columns that I understood the breadth and beauty of mathematics, and how that world was accessible even to a high school student.  And that high school students and professional mathematicians could work on the same problem and each have something to contribute.

When I went to university, it took me some time to find the type of mathematics that inspired what Gardner inspired.  I found it in operations research, and I am thankful for Martin Gardner for showing me what to look for.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Sanjay | May 26, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I like Douglas Hofstadter’s comment in his panegyric to Gardner (http://bit.ly/cxzAQE):

    Even though Martin is very self-deprecating and would disagree with this, I feel that an intellect like his is a treasure. Many of today’s most influential mathematicians and physicists, magicians and philosophers, writers and computer scientists, owe their direction to Martin Gardner. They may not even be aware of how big a role he played in their development. After all, influence is often transitive—if A influences B and then B influences C, A may thereby have a large influence on C, yet C may never have even heard of A!

  2. Paul Rubin | May 29, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Randy Cassingham’s “Honorary Unsubscribe” this week is Martin Gardner: http://www.honoraryunsubscribe.com/martin_gardner.html.