Undiluted Hocus-Pocus

That is the title of Martin Gardner’s autobiography. Mr Gardner, who wrote the popular Mathematical Games column for Scientific American for 25 years, is one of our intellectual heroes and role models. Here are three of our favorite excerpts from his last book:

1. On the transmission of knowledge

The secret of its success [the Mathematical Games column] was a direct result of my ignorance.  Even today my knowledge of math extends only through calculus, and even calculus, I only dimly comprehend.  As a result, I had to struggle to understand what I wrote, and this helped me write in ways that others could understand. (p. 136)

2. On writing

I recall a visit to Isaac’s apartment on Sixth Avenue overlooking Central Park.  I noticed that he worked in a room with no windows.  This was by design.  If the room had windows, he said, he would be tempted to leave his typewriter to look out the window, and that would seriously interrupt his thoughts while composing. (p. 148)

3. On love and life

Like Chicago, living in Manhattan was another gratifying experience. I have a strong memory of sitting on a side seat of subway car, Charlotte on one side and Jimmy, then about six months old, sound asleep with his head on my shoulder.  People walking by invariably gave us a smile.  I thought, “Here I am, in one of the world’s greatest cities, with a woman I love next to me, a son sleeping in my arms.  What more could I desire?”  It was the happiest moment of my life. (p. 133)

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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