Martin Gardner in the Twenty-First Century

No author has promoted recreational mathematics more than Martin Gardner. It started with his Mathematical Games column in Scientific American in 1956 which he continued for about 25 years, and he has published more than seventy (or hundred depending on how you count) books on the side. Many of these dealt with mathematical puzzles and stage magic, but there were also books for children, books about philosophy and religion and he was also a notorious debunker of pseudo science. He continued being active untill his death in 2010. Princeton University Press just published his autobiography in 2013. (See review in the EMS database). The biannual G4G (Gatherings for Gardner) conference started in 1993 to keep his enthusiasm for this topic alife and the yearly Celebration of Mind is a global event happening on (or around) October 21, Gardner's birthday, when seminars and other activities are organized all over the world to celebrate Gardner's legacy.

This year, 2014, is special because Gardner was born hundred years ago in 1914. The theme of the MAM (Mathematical Awareness Month) in April 2014 was Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery, the title of a book by Gardner from 1956. The centennial G4G11 celebration (the eleventh) took place in Atlanta (GA) in March 2014. So publishers take this occasion to bring new editions and collections of his work. I have mentioned already Gardner's autobiography, but since 2008 the MAA, in collaboration with Cambridge University Press is bringing out new, extended and updated, editions of Gardner's columns in a major project called The New Martin Gardner Mathematical Library. Three volumes were published already, a fourth is announced for 2014. The MAA also published a CD with all of Gardner's Mathematical Games columns in 2008. The current book by MAA (again in collaboration with CUP) brings a collection of eight of Gardner's papers published in MAA journals in the period 1999-2010 (hence the title). This collection is extended with 33 contributions by others who commented or answered some problems introduced by Gardner, or just discussed some of his topics. The College Mathematical Journal devoted in January 2012 a special issue to Gardner themes, which was a great success. These papers are all included and all others are also taken from MAA journals and magazines (Mathematics Magazine, Mathematical Monthly, and Math Horizons) after 2000. Among the authors we find many of the important names that have been dealing with these topics (G.W. Frederickson, L. Pook, J. Beasley, I. Stewart, ... to name just a few).

The papers are grouped around seven themes: Geometry; number and graph theory (e.g. colouring problems); flexagons and Catalan numbers; making things fit (polyominos, tiling, magic hexagons, etc); further puzzles and games; cards and probability; other aspects of Martin Gardner. This grouping is of course partially artificial because Gardner's interests were so prolific and diverse that classification is difficult. Also the content and style of the papers is quite diverse: some have a lot of mathematics and formulas, others are just prose or embed the mathematics in an entertaining story, some fit on only one page, others need 12 pages, but all discuss subjects that any Martin Gardner fan will love. Because the contributions are relatively short and diverse, it makes no sense to discuss in this review any of the contributions in more detail without doing injustice to all the others, but who read Martin Gardner's texts before or is somewhat familiar with his work, will know what to expect and there are really no aberrant surprises.

Bringing these papers together in one volume is a nice initiative that is welcomed by all Gardner-infected lovers of the subject. The editors did not only bring the scattered papers together in one volume in a uniform layout but they also added a name index (with a typo on page 38, by which Ivan Niven's name is missing in the index). I think no lover of Martin Gardner topics can afford not to add this book to his or her collection.

A. Bultheel
KU Leuven
Book details

This is a collection of 8 reprints of articles by Martin Gardner that appeared in journals and magazines published by the MAA (Mathematical Association of America) in the period 1999-2010. This is extended with 33 more contributions by others who answered or extended or just commenetd on Gardner's work and that were also published in these journals in the period 2000-2012. That includes many from the special January 2012 issue of the College Journal of Mathematics that was devoted to Martin Gardner topics.



9780883859131 (pbk)
£27.00 / US$68.26

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