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Happy Birthday, Richard Guy!

Just after the Mathematical Association of America celebrated its centennial year as an organization, the mathematical community is congratulating another centenarian. Today, September 30, renowned mathematician and MAA member Richard K. Guy celebrates his 100th birthday.

Born on September 30, 1916, in Nuneaton, England, Guy is known for his work in geometry, number theory, combinatorial game theory, and graph theory. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Cambridge. Guy spent the majority of his career teaching at the University of Calgary in Alberta.

In the span of his career as a mathematician, Guy has published more than 100 papers and written and edited several books for the MAA. He has published many papers with famous mathematicians such as Paul Erdős, John H. Conway, Kenneth J. Falconer, Elwyn Berlekamp, and more.

In 1989 Guy won the MAA Lester R. Ford Award for his paper “The Strong Law of Small Numbers.” In August at MAA MathFest 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, a special session was held in Guy’s honor, “Numbers Geometries and Games: a Centenarian of Mathematics.” In it, MAA members honored his work with talks on related and inspired topics, including “Sums of Unit Fractions” by Ron Graham and “Fibonacci plays Billiards, Again” by Elwyn Berlekamp.

Here we have listed some more entertaining facts about Guy:

  • Guy published four papers with Paul Erdős, giving him an Erdős number of 1 (or is that 14?).

  • He discovered an unstable polyhedron having only 19 faces in 1959.

  • In 2014, Guy raised more than $4,000 for the Alberta Wilderness Association when he climbed 1,604 stairs at the University of Calgary. Guy was 97 when he accomplished this, making him the oldest participant at the event.

  • The Guy-Blandford-Roycroft code is a system in chess used for representing the piece positions in endgames. It is named after Guy, Hugh Blandford, and John Roycroft.

  • In recent years, Guy served as the MAA governor-at-large for the Canadian membership (February 2010 - January 2013).

Finally, some mathematical fans have put together a song and video in honor of Guy’s 100th birthday: “Is There Still News For Me in that Old Geometry,” performed by Robert Schneider (Emory University) to the tune of the 1916 song “Is There Still Room for Me ’Neath the Old Apple Tree.” The lyrics were written by Guy’s old Cambridge friend Blanche Descartes.

However, nothing quite sums up the life of such a mathematician better than his own words. At the conclusion of “A Centenarian of Mathematics” at MAA MathFest, Guy thanked the crowd and said, “I have been the luckiest man in the world; I have mathematics.”

From your friends, colleagues, coauthors, students, and many others in the MAA community, we all wish you a very happy birthday, Richard! Cheers to a lifetime of mathematics.


News Date: 
Friday, September 30, 2016