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Tom Rodgers, Organizer of Gathering for Gardner and Celebration of Mind, Dies at 67

Tom Rodgers, Atlanta puzzle gatherer and organizer of the Gathering for Gardner and Celebration of Mind conferences to celebrate the influence of Martin Gardner, passed away April 10, 2012. He was 67 years old.

Martin Gardner was an acclaimed mathematics and science writer. He is perhaps best known as the author of the "Mathematical Games" column for Scientific American from 1956 to 1981, which introduced readers to the joys of recreational mathematics.

Rodgers organized the first Gathering for Gardner conference in 1993 in Atlanta and persuaded Gardner to attend. Another Gathering took place in 1996 with Gardner in attendance and has been held since then on even-numbered years in the Atlanta area.  Each event is written "G4Gn", with n being replaced by the number of the event. Rodgers was very involved in each Gathering, including the G4G10, held March 28th - April 1st, 2012.

“It was a great success,” said Colm Mulcahy of G4G10, “despite the unease in the air once attendees learned that Tom was gravely ill. It was his express wish that the meeting proceed as usual, and by and large, he got his wish. On the Saturday afternoon, at his insistence, a long-standing tradition was observed, when several hundred people gathered on the grounds of his amazing house in Buckhead for six or seven hours, and engaged in the standard activities of mathematical sculpture building or observing, eating, networking and relaxing with like-minded spirits. Attendees there (who also spoke at the 4 day conference) ranged from age 12 to 92.”

Rodgers developed The Gathering 4 Gardner nonprofit to promote the lucid exposition and discussion of new ideas in recreational mathematics, magic, puzzles, and philosophy. After Gardner died in 2010, Rodgers and others developed Celebration of Mind, to be held annually on or around Gardner’s birthday (October 21). In 2011, there were Celebrations held on every continent, including Antarctica.

Neil Calkin (Clemson University) wrote a tribute to Rodgers:

Tom's contribution to the life of the mind has been that of a catalyst: to bring together hundreds of incredible people, to give them a forum to meet, to communicate, and to interact with amazing individuals from different disciplines, to form connections, and to inspire. In 2010, I described one day at the G4G9 as the best day I've had in my life so far. That reflects how I feel about the contribution Tom made, and the impact that he has had.


MAA Columnist Colm Mulcahy is collecting reflections on Tom Rodgers for a tribute website. Send your comments to colm(at) 

Start Date: 
Friday, April 20, 2012