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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

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Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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May 24, 2010

Martin Gardner, RIP

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Posted by Derek

I note with sadness that Martin Gardner died this weekend at the age of 95.. Many will know him from his longtime "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American (where I first encountered him while I was growing up in the 1970s). In recent years, he devoted a lot of time to speaking up for skeptical causes and against all sorts of quackery, a cause I respect very much (although I sometimes wonder how much good it does).

A good overview of his work is found in The Night Is Large: Collected Essays, 1938-1995, and there are many, many other collections of his work out there. He'll be missed.

Comments (11) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Current Events


1. processchemist on May 24, 2010 5:07 AM writes...

I remember, when I was a kid, a couple of columns on scientific american about chemistry and thermodynamics of cooking... great essays... RIP

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2. partial agonist on May 24, 2010 7:33 AM writes...

My small town didn't have a lot of science books in the library, but reading his essays, and those of physicist George Gamow who died way back in the late 60s, was a great way to get excited about science back then, along with scifi.

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3. MattF on May 24, 2010 7:45 AM writes...

Note that -all- of Gardner's Scientific American 'Mathematical Games' articles are available on a single CD:

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4. Wavefunction on May 24, 2010 8:49 AM writes...

Martin Gardner's books were some of the best sources to get kids excited about science, math and rational thinking. He is no more, but his copious writings will endure.

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5. anon the II on May 24, 2010 10:12 AM writes...

Martin Gardner (through his MG column in SA) long ago instilled in me the idea that math and science could (should?) be fun. I thank him for that.

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6. Sili on May 24, 2010 3:26 PM writes...

although I sometimes wonder how much good it does
To (mis)quote Sagan: Better to light a candle, however small, than to curse the darkness.

Not fighting the forces of stupidity will only harm us even more - just look at the now struck-off Wakefield.

Truth will out. In the end even you will accept that Global Warming is manmade. (Yes, I had to get that in there.)

I was unfamiliar with Gardner, myself, I think, but it is obvious from all the sad reflections all over the blogosphere that he was truly one of the good guys.

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7. newnickname on May 24, 2010 4:06 PM writes...

He was not a professional mathematician. From a NYT interview in 2009: ""I don't think I ever wrote a column that required calculus," he says. "The big secret of my success as a columnist was that I didn't know much about math.""

I grew up reading his columns. I loved the ones about chess, symmetry and paradox (and others). It was just another push to go into science when it seemed like "scientist" could be a real way to earn a living. (Thanks a lot, Mr. Gardner. RIP)

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8. George Kaplan on May 24, 2010 11:06 PM writes...

It is little consolation to reflect that Gardner far outlived the greatness of the magazine he once called home.

I was checking out every Gardner compilation the library had in my teens. Damn. One of the good dead ones.

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9. gippgig on May 25, 2010 3:55 AM writes...

The Mathematical Games column was notable for popularizing John Horton Conway's cellular automaton Game of Life (Oct. 1970). It is interesting to note that a pattern was just created that is capable of nontrivial self-replication (see "Oblique Life spaceship created" at Since one definition of life is non-trivial self-replication this could be considered an artificial life form. That's two totally different kinds almost simultaneously (see A Synthetic Genome; A New Species).

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10. Anonymous BMS Researcher on May 25, 2010 9:32 PM writes...

I also grew up on Gardner's columns; also his review of Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach prompted me to go to the bookstore that very day and get a copy.

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11. colm mulcahy on February 15, 2014 8:24 AM writes...

Anyone is welcome to leave Gardner comments here:

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