Martin Gardner

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Martin Gardner (born October 21, 1914) is an American recreational mathematician, magician, skeptic, and author of the long-running but now discontinued "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American.

Interests and writings

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Martin Gardner more or less singlehandedly sustained and nurtured interest in recreational mathematics in the U.S. 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. His interests range from science and philosophy to magic and the philosophical movement of skepticism, of which he is considered a notable figure in the field. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

Occasional conferences of people sharing his interests, known as the "Gatherings for Gardner," are held in his honor. The first was held in 1993.

The "Mathematical Games" column ran from 1956 to 1981 and introduced many subjects to a wider audience, including:

In 1981, upon Gardner's retirement, the column was replaced by Douglas Hofstadter's "Metamagical Themas", a name that is an anagram of "Mathematical Games".

Gardner also wrote a "puzzle" story column for Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine for a while in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He is the author or editor of more than 100 books and booklets, including books on mathematics, science, pseudoscience, philosophy, literary criticism, and fiction (including Visitors from Oz, based on L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and stories about an imaginary numerologist named Dr. Matrix).

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 the book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television). Though particularly well known for his critique of pseudoscientific beliefs, Gardner has also taken sides on political, economic, historical and philosophical controversies. His philosophical views, for example, 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 had criticisms 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. Among Gardner's claims are 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. [1]

Martin Gardner has an abiding interest 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 semiautobiograpical 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.

Martin Gardner's philosophy may be summarised 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 real. [To an atheist] "the universe is the most exquisite masterpiece ever constructed by nobody", from G. K. Chesterton is one of Martin's favorite quotes.

Gardner is respected by both the magic and scientific communities, though he has some critics: "In the Name of Skepticism: Martin Gardner's Misrepresentations of General Semantics," by Bruce I. Kodish, appeared in General Semantics Bulletin, Number 71, 2004. Gardner's book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science has become a classic work. He is a member of CSICOP, and wrote a column called "Notes of a Fringe Watcher" (originally "Notes of a Psi-Watcher") from 1983 to 2002 in the Skeptical Inquirer. These have been collected in 5 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).

There is an asteroid, (2587) Gardner, named in his honor.

Gardner has sometimes used pseudonyms, including "Uriah Fuller" (a parody of Uri Geller, whom Gardner considers a fraud), "Armand T. Ringer", and "George Groth". Under the name Uriah Fuller he wrote Confessions of a Psychic and Further Confessions of a Psychic, two privately printed booklets explaining how so-called psychics do their "seemingly impossible paranormal feats."

Selected works

Note: Gardner has a number of magic books written "for the trade", which are not listed here.

Chronology of selected books by Gardner

  • 1956 Mathematics, Magic and Mystery Dover; ISBN 0486203352
  • 1957 Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science Dover; ISBN 0486203948
  • 1957 Great Essays in Science (editor); Prometheus Books (Reprint edition 1994) ISBN 0879758538
  • 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 0140434917
  • 1965 The Annotated Ancient Mariner New York: Clarkson Potter, Reprint. Prometheus. ISBN 1591021251
  • 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 0486285987
  • 1973 The Flight of Peter Fromm, Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc. Prometheus Books; Reprint edition (1994) ISBN 0879759119
  • 1975 Mathematical Carnival: A New Round-up of Tantalizers and Puzzles from "Scientific American", Knopf Publishing Group; ISBN 0394494067
  • 1978 Aha! Insight, W.H. Freeman & Company; ISBN 071671017X
  • 1980 The Ambidextrous Universe: Mirror Asymmetry and Time-Reversed Worlds (updated 1990, to be re-released with updates June 92005 as The New Ambidextrous Universe : Symmetry and Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings: Revised Edition, Dover; ISBN 0486442446
  • 1981 Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus, Prometheus Books; ISBN 8797557330 / ISBN 8797551444
  • 1981 Entertaining Science Experiments With Everyday Objects; Dover; ISBN 0486242013
  • 1982 Aha! Gotcha: Paradoxes to Puzzle and Delight (Tools for Transformation); W.H. Freeman & Company; ISBN 0716713616
  • 1983 The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, 1999 reprint St. Martin's Griffin; ISBN 0312206828
  • 1984 Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing (Test Your Code Breaking Skills), Dover; ISBN 0486247619
  • 1985 Magic Numbers of Dr Matrix, Prometheus Books; ISBN 0879752823
  • 1986 Entertaining Mathematical Puzzles, Dover; ISBN 0486252116
  • 1987 The No-Sided Professor and other tales of fantasy, humor, mystery, and philosophy, Prometheus Books; ISBN 0879753900
  • 1987 The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown Oxford University Press, ISBN 0192177486 (Notes by Gardner, on G.K. Chesterton’s stories).
  • 1987 Riddles of the Sphinx Mathematical Association of American, ISBN 0883856328 (collection of articles from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine)
  • 1987 Time Travel and Other Mathematical Bewilderments, W.H. Freeman & Company ISBN 0716719258
  • 1988 Perplexing Puzzles and Tantalizing Teasers, Dover; ISBN 0486256375
  • 1988 New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher, Prometheus Books; ISBN 087975432X (collection of "Notes of a Fringe Watcher" columns)
  • 1991 The Unexpected Hanging and Other Mathematical Diversions, University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition; ISBN 0226282562
  • 1991; Fractal Music, Hypercards and More; W. H. Freeman
  • 1992 On the Wild Side, Prometheus Books; ISBN 0879757132 (collection of "Notes of a Fringe Watcher" columns)
  • 1994 My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles, Dover; ISBN 0486281523
  • 1995 Classic Brainteasers, Sterling Publishing; ISBN 0806912618
  • 1995 Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery, Prometheus Books ISBN 0879759550
  • 1996 Weird Water & Fuzzy Logic: More Notes of a Fringe Watcher, Prometheus Books; ISBN 1573920967 (collection of "Notes of a Fringe Watcher" columns)
  • 1997 The Night Is Large : Collected Essays, 1938-1995, St. Martin's Griffin; ISBN 0312169493
  • 1998 Calculus Made Easy, St. Martin's Press; Revised edition ISBN 0312185480 (Revisions and additions to the 1910 calculus textbook by Gardner.)
  • 1998 Martin Gardner's Table Magic, Dover; ISBN 048640403X
  • 1999 Gardner's Whys & Wherefores Prometheus Books; ISBN 1573927449
  • 1999 The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition ; W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN 0393048470
  • 2000 From the Wandering Jew to William F. Buckley, Jr. : On Science, Literature, and Religion, Prometheus Books; ISBN 1573928526
  • 2000 The Annotated Wizard of Oz, New York: Norton, ISBN 0393049922
  • 2001 A Gardner's Workout: Training the Mind and Entertaining the Spirit ISBN 1568811209
  • 2001 Mathematical Puzzle Tales; Mathematical Association of America ISBN 088385533X (collection of articles from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine)
  • 2001 Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?: Debunking Pseudoscience, W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN 0393322386 (collection of "Notes of a Fringe Watcher" columns)
  • 2002 Martin Gardner's Favorite Poetic Parodies Prometheus Books; ISBN 1573929255
  • 2003 Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?: Discourses on Gödel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Pseudoscientific Topics, ISBN 0393057429 (collection of "Notes of a Fringe Watcher" columns and others)
  • 2004 Smart Science Tricks, Sterling; ISBN 1402709102


  • 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.

Collections of Scientific American columns

  1. Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions: The First Scientific American Book of Puzzles and Games 1959; University of Chicago Press 1988 ISBN 0226282546 (originally published as The Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions)
  2. The Second Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions 1961; University of Chicago Press 1987; ISBN 0226282538
  3. Martin Gardner's New Mathematical Diversions from Scientific American 1966; Simon and Schuster; reprinted by Mathematical Association of America 1995
  4. Numerology of Dr. Matrix 1967; reprinted/expanded as The Magic Numbers of Dr. Matrix; Prometheus Books; ISBN 0879752815 / ISBN 0879752823
  5. Unexpected Hangings, and Other Mathematical Diversions Simon & Schuster 1968; reprinted by University of Chicago Press, 1991 ISBN 0671200739
  6. The Sixth Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions Simon & Schuster 1971
  7. Mathematical Carnival Vintage 1975; reprinted by Mathematical Association of America
  8. Mathematical Magic Show Vintage 1977; reprinted by Mathematical Association of America
  9. Mathematical Circus Vintage 1979; reprinted by Mathematical Association of America
  10. Wheels, Life, and Other Mathematical Amusements 1983; W. H. Freeman & Co. ISBN 0-7167-1589-9
  11. Knotted Doughnuts and Other Mathematical Entertainments 1986; W. H. Freeman & Co. ISBN 0716717999
  12. Time Travel and Other Mathematical Bewilderments 1988; W. H. Freeman & Co. ISBN 0716719258
  13. Penrose Tiles to Trapdoor Ciphers 1989; W. H. Freeman & Co. ISBN 0716719878; reprinted by Mathematical Association of America
  14. Fractal Music, Hypercards and More 1991; W. H. Freeman
  15. Last Recreations: Hydras, Eggs, and other Mathematical Mystifications 1997; Springer Verlag; ISBN 0387949291
  • The Colossal Book of Mathematics: Classic Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Problems 2001; W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN 0393020231 (a "best of" collection)
  • Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games (all columns on CD-ROM, published by Mathematical Association of America)

See also

External links

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