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Martin Gardner

Martin Gardner (born October 21, 1914) is an American recreational mathematician 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. 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.

In his "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American, he introduced many subjects to a wider audience, including:

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).

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. 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.

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, knowing 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. "The universe is the most exquisite mechanism 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. His book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science has become a classic work. He is deeply admired by James Randi.

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) and "Armand T. Ringer." 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


Collections of Scientific American columns

See also

External links

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