Martin Gardner passed away yesterday, on Saturday, May 22. I’ve never met Gardner, but I grew up with his books and columns, ever since I discovered one of his Mathematical Games volumes in my local library.
Aha! Insight and Aha! Gotcha are my first recommendations for any bright kid who wants to stretch his mind. As an adult, whenever I want something new to think about, I can turn to the volumes of Scientific American columns. Every one is a clear presentation of an intriguing idea or puzzle. Gardner’s skeptical books helped teach me how to read and design a scientific study; and the adventures of Dr. Matrix showed how much fun it could be to discard skepticism and play with nonsense. And, if you enjoy Lewis Carroll, but have a feeling that many of the jokes are going over your head, you really owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of the Annotated Alice.
I hope Martin Gardner’s friends know how many people he helped and touched. For the rest of us, perhaps we could try to take something we love, and make it as exciting and accessible as Martin Gardner made mathematics for us.