|Birth: ||Oct. 21, 1914|
|Death: ||May 22, 2010|
Martin Gardner inspired generations of mathematicians through his monthly column "Mathematical Games" that ran for 25 years in Scientific American. Yet Gardner's own training in math ended in high school. "I was very good at math in school," Gardner, 95, said during one of the last interviews he gave before his death May 22 in Norman. "I wanted to go to Cal-Tech and major in physics, but they required you have two years of liberal arts before you could transfer," he said. "So I went to the University of Chicago and ended up getting hooked on philosophy." Instead of a life in the lab or the classroom, the Tulsa native earned his living as a writer and editor: penning short stories for Esquire magazine; working for the children's magazine Humpty Dumpty, where he wrote stories and poems of each monthly issue; writing more than 70 books on everything from pseudoscience and religion to "Alice in Wonderland." "I'm just a journalist," he said during that last interview, harking back to his first job as assistant oil editor with The Tulsa Tribune in 1936. But to millions of readers, Gardner was more than just any journalist. He was "one of the great intellects produced in this country in the 20th century," according to Douglas Hofstadter, and, in the words of Stephen Jay Gould "the single brightest beacon defending rationality and good science against mysticism and anti-intellectualism." Mathematicians and scientists weren't the only fans of Gardner's work. Poet W.H. Auden and novelist Vladimir Nabokov were admirers. Nabokov includes a mention of Gardner in his novel "Ada, or Ardor." Gardner himself was a great fan of magic and illusions, often entertaining guests with sleight-of-hand tricks and optical illusions. Martin Gardner was born Oct. 21, 1914, in Tulsa. His father, a petroleum geologist, nurtured Gardner's interest in magic, while he taught himself to read by looking over his mother's shoulder as she read aloud from books such as "The Wizard of Oz." "That created some problems in the first grade," Gardner recalled, smiling. "I was always the first one to answer whenever there was a question about a word." Gardner would later create "The Annotated Alice in Wonderland," which would become his most financially successful book, as well as an annotated "The Wizard of Oz." He also wrote his own addition to the Oz saga in "Visitors from Oz," which transported the well-known characters to modern-day New York City. It was that desire to explain more perfectly — whether it be the 19th-century humor of "Alice in Wonderland" or how flexagons worked — that underpinned Gardner's work. And "the key to my success," he said, "was not to know too much." "Every column I wrote required a great deal of research, because I had to work hard to understand the concepts of whatever topic was being considered," he said. Gardner's passion for logic and clarity also was behind the books and columns he wrote that debunked what he saw as pseudoscience. In 1976, he, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov and others formed the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal to challenge that false science. The group, now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, publishes a journal, the Skeptical Inquirer, for which Gardner wrote a monthly column until 2002. One of his first books, "In the Name of Science" (later reissued as "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science"), became famous when a radio talk-show host began attacking the book on his program. Although Gardner ultimately abandoned religion (his family had been members of the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, and his mother was close friends with Adah Robinson, who designed the church's building), he continued to maintain a belief in God. "There are people who claim that science will ultimately discover everything," he said. "That's nonsense. There are truths about this world that we simply don't have the brains to be able to understand." At the time of that last conversation, Gardner said he was working on an autobiography. "A friend of mine is doing a biography, so it's kind of a race to see who's going to get his book published first," he said. He laughed, then said, "We'll see." Gardner's many admirers have gathered every two years since 1993 for a conference called Gathering for Gardner or G4G, which features presentations and new tricks and puzzles by magicians, mathematicians and others. Gardner's wife, the former Charlotte Greenwald, died in 2000 after 48 years of marriage. He is survived by two sons, James Gardner, a professor of education at the University of Oklahoma, and Tom Gardner of Asheville, N.C.; and three grandchildren.
James D. Watts, Writer
May 28, 2010
Charlotte Greenwald Gardner (1916 - 2000)*
Cremated, Location of ashes is unknown.
Created by: MillieBelle
Record added: May 28, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 52930562
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