Saturday, May 22, 2010

Martin Gardner, RIP

The prominent skeptic Martin Gardner, mathematician, philosopher, magician, and writer, died today at the age of 95 (b. October 21, 1914, d. May 22, 2010).  He was one of the founders of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), and had been part of the earlier Resources for the Scientific Evaluation of the Paranormal along with CSICOP founding members Ray Hyman, James Randi, and Marcello Truzzi.  Long before that, he wrote one of the classic texts debunking pseudoscience, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (the Dover 2nd edition was published in 1957).  For many years (1956-1981) he was the author of the Scientific American column, "Mathematical Games" (taken over by Douglas Hofstadter and retitled "Metamagical Themas"), and he wrote a regular "Notes of a Psi-Watcher" column for the Skeptical Inquirer right up to the present.  His 70+ books included a semi-autobiographical novel, The Flight of Peter Fromm, a book explaining his philosophical positions including why he wasn't an atheist, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, and an annotated version of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland works, The Annotated Alice.

He had been scheduled to appear by video link at the upcoming The Amazing Meeting 8 in Las Vegas, where a number of other skeptical old timers will be appearing on discussion panels.  His death is a great loss.

I never met Gardner, but was first introduced to his work reading his "Mathematical Games" column in the late 70's, and then his Fads and Fallacies and Skeptical Inquirer columns.  Gardner, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, and James Randi were the first major figures I identified as skeptical role models.  One of the great honors of my life was receiving the Martin Gardner Award for Best Skeptical Critic from the Skeptics Society in 1996.

A Martin Gardner documentary that is part of "The Nature of Things" may be found online, and Scientific American has republished online its December 1995 profile of Gardner.  Here's a transcript of a February 1979 telephone interview between Martin Gardner and five mathematicians (thanks to Anthony Barcellos for transcribing it and bringing it to my attention in the comments below).

Various tributes:
UPDATE (June 11, 2011): An interesting chapter on Martin Gardner from George Hansen's book, The Trickster and the Paranormal, is available online as a PDF.


Qohelet said...

Rest in Peace Martin Gardner. You will be missed.

Mr B said...

I have posted a transcript of a long 1979 interview with Martin Gardner here.