Friday, October 21, 2016

Birthday: Martin Gardner always maintained, ‘I just play all the time and am fortunate enough to get paid for it.”


Martin Gardner (1914-2010)
Author, columnist, scientific skeptic

He loved solving things. As a young man, he was already a leading collector of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia and developed what became a respected skepticism toward the claims of all manner of pseudoscience advocates.

After Navy service in World War II, Gardner attended the University of Chicago but left without a degree. He moved to New York and worked for a series of children’s magazines as a writer and designer. He married and lived with his wife and family in Hastings-on-Hudson for decades; rather like the otherworldly artist Joseph Cornell, who lived on Utopia Parkway, Gardner spent most of his life ensconced on Euclid Avenue.

His publications on science and puzzles led to a 1956 column in Scientific American, “Mathematical Games.” It made his name, and he continued the immensely popular feature until 1981. As a fan of Alice in Wonderland, he suggested the need for an annotated edition and suggested Bertrand Russell for the project, a bit of cheek that got Gardner the job when the publisher couldn't get past Lord Russell’s secretary on the phone. The Annotated Alice, published in 1960, was a smash hit, and was followed by a revised edition in 1990 and The Definitive Alice in 1999. He also published an annotated edition of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories; a successful freelance writer, he ended up publishing over 100 books and collections of puzzles and games.

Intensely shy, he tended to decline honors that would require him to speak before crowds; in 1979 he and his wife retired to western North Carolina, where he kept busy revising his old books and writing new ones. After his wife’s death in 2000, advancing age led him to move to Norman, Oklahoma, where one of his sons was a university professor. He lived a happy, long life, and died, surrounded by family, at the age of 95.

The official Martin Gardner site keeps his life and work alive.

Every day is a literary birthday at Drop in; have some cake.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We enjoy hearing from visitors! Please leave your questions, thoughts, wish lists, or whatever else is on your mind.