May 23, 2010

USA: Popular science writer Martin Gardner, 95, dies

SINGAPORE / The Straits Times / Tech & Science / May 23, 2010
From Associated Press in NORMAN, Oklahoma

PROLIFIC mathematics and science writer Martin Gardner, known for popularising recreational mathematics and debunking paranormal claims, died on Saturday. He was 95.

Gardner died on Saturday at Norman Regional Hospital, said his son James Gardner. He had been living at an assisted living facility in Norman.

Martin Gardner was born in 1914 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at the University of Chicago. He became a freelance writer, and in the 1950s wrote features and stories for several children's magazines. His creation of paper-folding puzzles led to his publication in Scientific American magazine, where he wrote his 'Mathematical Games' column for 25 years.

The column introduced the public to puzzles and concepts such as fractals and Chinese tangram puzzles, as well as the work of artist M.C. Escher.

Photo Credit: MAA, USA

Allyn Jackson, deputy editor of Notices, a journal of the American Mathematical Society, wrote in 2005 that Gardner 'opened the eyes of the general public to the beauty and fascination of mathematics and inspired many to go on to make the subject their life's work.' Jackson said Gardner's 'crystalline prose, always enlightening, never pedantic, set a new standard for high quality mathematical popularization.' The mathematics society awarded him its Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition in 1987 for his work on math, particularly his Scientific American column.

'He was a renaissance man who built new ideas through words, numbers and puzzles,' his son, a professor of special education at the University of Oklahoma, told The Associated Press. Gardner also became known as a skeptic of the paranormal and wrote columns for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. He wrote works debunking public figures such as psychic Uri Geller, who gained fame for claiming to bend spoons with his mind. [rc]

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