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Brick Installation Honors Martin Gardner

Mathematics Awareness Month (MAM) 2014 borrows its theme—Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery—from the title of a book by Martin Gardner. The late mathematics popularizer would have turned 100 this October, and in anticipation of the centennial and celebration of the Gardner-inspired MAM, Gardner fans have chosen to honor him this spring with a cluster of bricks in the MAA’s Paul R. Halmos Commemorative Walk.

The initial plan called for three Gardner bricks, but so many of the writer’s friends and admirers donated to the effort that eight bricks were ultimately installed in the Carriage House courtyard.

The inscriptions on the bricks pay tribute to Mathematics Awareness Month 2014 and the Gardner book whose title it echoes, as well as the Scientific American “Mathematical Games” column that “the best friend mathematics ever had” wrote for so many years. The Gathering 4 Gardner’s annual Celebration of Mind events—and the Aha! moments Gardner puzzles typically produce—are also invoked, as is Gardner’s recently published memoirs, Undiluted Hocus-Pocus. Dr. I. J. Matrix, an alias Gardner often used to poke fun at numerology, also makes an appearance.

It was over 30 years ago that Richard Guy proclaimed that Martin Gardner had “brought more mathematics to more millions than anyone else.” It is hoped that such a prominent display, located at the meeting of the two tributaries of the rivers of bricks—symbolizing Gardner’s peerless knack for bringing together amateur and professional mathematical enthusiasts—will go some way towards addressing the concern expressed by Fernando Gouvêa when he remarked, “Time has passed, and a generation that knoweth not Gardner has arisen. Now we can fix that.” 

The bricks are made possible thanks to generous donations from 22 people: Richard Guy, Rosemary Brown, Jim Gardner, Dana Richards, David Bressoud, Paul Zorn, Ron Graham, Tom Banchoff,  Art Benjamin, Keith Devlin, Vickie Kearn, Scott Hudson de Tarnowsky, Tim Chartier, Neil Calkin, Tanya Thompson, George Hart, Joe M. Turner, Jim Henle, Chaim Goodman-Strauss, and the Mathematics Awareness Month 2014 committee members (Bruce Torrence, Eve Torrence, and Colm Mulcahy).

News Date: 
Tuesday, April 1, 2014